GOCE lowly, lest ye fall

goce-copyEric Drexler writes about the beautiful Gravity and Steady State Ocean Explorer on his blog:

I’m glad to see that someone finally found an excuse to launch a streamlined spacecraft that will cruise above Earth, steadily firing its engines to keep it moving. (Aristotelian physicists take note.) The European Space Agency will soon launch this sleek piece of hardware on a mission of gravity measurement with unprecedented accuracy: The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) will carry accelerometers able to sense accelerations as little as 10–13 of what we tolerate on Earth.

Apparently because GOCE will orbit much lower than usual it needs to be streamlined to cope with the thin upper atmosphere and generate thrust to keep itself aloft.

Anyway it’s a very pretty piece of kit: surely the MacBook Air of spacecraft1.

[via Eric Drexler][image from ESA]

1: In that it’s solid-state and sleek.