ESA’s comet chaser Rosetta has swung by Earth for the third and final time, skimming past our planet to pick up a gravitational boost for an epic journey to rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014.

Rosetta passed over the ocean just South of the Indonesian island of Java at exactly 08:45:40 CET with a speed of 13.34 km/s with respect to Earth and an altitude of 2481 km. 

The successful swingby was confirmed at 09:05 CET and spacecraft operators have confirmed that the swingby provided a boost of 3.6 km/s. 

Animation showing Rosetta's journey and the flyby geometry of the third and final Rosetta Earth swingby that takes place on 13 November 2009.   Credits: ESA (Animation by M. Graf)

Europe’s comet chaser has now flown a little over 4500 million km of its 7100 million km journey to its destination comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This was Rosetta’s fourth planetary swingby and the third and final swingby of Earth.

Some of Rosetta’s instruments have been on since early November, performing imaging, magnetospheric, and atmospheric observations, as well as looking for water on the Moon. The first round of images and data recorded just before and during the swingby will be downloaded later today.

Rosetta is now departing Earth to meet asteroid (21) Lutetia in July 2010. It has gained sufficient orbital energy to achieve its final goal: a rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014. The spacecraft is scheduled to enter deep-space hibernation by mid 2011 for the coldest leg of her journey to receive a wake up call only in spring 2014.