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The European Hipparcos satellite was launched on august 8th 1989 and designed to carry out astrometric surveys to an unprecedented degree of accuracy. Its name is an acronym for High Precision Parallax Collecting Satellite and was chosen for its (somewhat strained) similarity to that of the Greek astronomer Hipparchus.


Hipparcos (photo: ESA)

Although, due to a faulty launch, Hipparcos ended up in a highly elliptical orbit instead of the intended geosynchronous one, its mission was eventually a triumph and resulted in two catalogues: the Hipparcos catalogue of 118,000 stars with positions, parallaxes, and proper motions measured to an unprecedented accuracy of 2 milliarc-seconds and the Tycho catalogue of over a million stars with measurements of somewhat lower accuracy.

Dutch Space was responsible for the Hipparcos thermal control system and the solar arrays.

For more information: http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/area/index.cfm?fareaid=20