Herschel, originally named FIRST (Far InfraRed and Sub-millimetre Telescope), was renamed in honour of Sir William Herschel, who in 1800 demonstrated the existence of infrared light. Both he and his sister Caroline Herschel were pioneering and successful astronomers.
Mass - about 3400 kg at launch
Dimensions - 7.5m high, 4m × 4m overall cross section
Launcher - Ariane 5 ECA from Guiana Space Centre
Mission Lifetime - 3 years nominal from end of commissioning phase
Wavelength - Infrared and sub-millimetre: 55 to 672 µm
Telescope - Cassegrain, 3.5m primary and 0.3m secondary mirror
Herschel was launched on an Ariane 5 ECA rocket together with ESA's Planck spacecraft on 14 May 2009, at 13:12:02 UTC. The two spacecraft separated after launch and were directly injected towards the second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system, L2. About sixty days after launch, Herschel entered a Lissajous orbit around the L2 point at a distance of around 1.5 million km from Earth, on Earth's nightside. The spacecraft's orbit around L2 has an average amplitude of about 700 000 km and a period of about 178 days.
Herschel's Mission Operations Centre (MOC) is located at ESA's European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany and is responsible for the daily operations, health and safety of the spacecraft. For communication with the spacecraft ESA's New Norcia (close to Perth, Australia) and Cebreros (close to Avila, Spain) deep space antennas are used, with New Norcia serving as the main ground station. In the phase immediately after launch the Kourou (French Guiana) and Villafranca (Spain) ground stations were also used.
The Herschel science operations team is situated in the Herschel Science Centre (HSC) at ESA's European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) in Villanueva de la Cañada in Spain.
The Herschel instrument control centres for monitoring and optimising the instruments' performance are located at: