Washington: Two of the satellites of the Cluster quartet achieved their closest-ever separation on September 19, just 4 km of each other, while orbiting at up to 23,000 km/h high above Earth, enabling scientists to acquire valuable data with unprecedented detail.
Detlef Sieg, working on Cluster flight dynamics at ESA`s ESOC operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany, said that they are optimising the Cluster formation so that the separation between Cluster 1 and the duo of Cluster 3 and 4 - which are on almost identical orbits - is kept below 100 km when the formation crosses Earth`s magnetic equator.
The formation will hold three of the four satellites close together at lower altitudes, optimising the range of science observations.
Juergen Volpp, Spacecraft Operations Manager at ESOC, said that following the closest-ever approach on August 30, they achieved a new mission record with C1 and C3 yesterday, at just 4.0 km around 09:12 GMT.
The new formation will be held until early November before the separations are increased to more than 1000 km.