Ocean Circulation Explorer, the Formula 1 of satellites

Those hip Europeans. They make the sleekest cars, and now they’ve taken that chic design sense into space with the Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE), perhaps the most badass satellite to ever ply the cosmos. This shiny space ornament is set to blast into orbit on September 10th, and will be using its Electrostatic Gravity Gradiometer to measure the earth’s gravitational fields. Its main mission is to figure out the speed and direction of ocean currents, and along the way maybe even determine when the next big volcano is going to blow.

Powered by an electric motor charged up with solar panels, it will get its readings of Earth’s gravitational field by flying in a relatively low 167-mile-high orbit. Because there’s still some wispy remnants of the earth’s atmosphere at that altitude, this baby has those streamlined fins like a ’57 Chevy to fly straight and true. This snazzy bird is sure to be the envy of all the other satellites, not to mention that clunky-looking International Space Station.

European Space Agency, via AstroEngine