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Friday, 22 February, 2002, 17:45 GMT
Space diary: One week to go until launch
The satellite being moved into the transport container (Astrium)
The satellite being moved into the transport container
One week before launch and Envisat has been loaded on to the giant rocket that will carry it into orbit.

Pre-launch nerves are starting to emerge, as project manager Derek Todman reports in his latest diary for BBC News Online.

Friday 15 February

Today, we started the combined operations with the launcher teams, beginning with the preparation activities of the ACU (Adapter Charge Utile). Basically, it's the ring between the satellite and the rocket, with the separation device that releases the satellite from the upper stage once in orbit.


Today, at long last, we have lifted the satellite on to Ariane 5 and it is now bolted down. Now, the nerves start as we are all beginning to feel that the launch is really getting close

The preparation activities are fairly straightforward after delivery, unpacking and setting up in the fuelling hall.

There is a harness on the ACU that we connect to, which, in turn, connects to the umbilical cable that runs up the launch tower. Before we bolt the satellite to the ACU, this harness is checked out using a satellite simulator.

Saturday 16 February

The satellite was mated to the ACU and a check of the satellite through the ACU harness was carried out to make sure all the flight electrical connections are working.

Satellite on the transport container base (Astrium)
Satellite on the transport container base
As you can see, we do spend a lot of time checking and double-checking everything is right.

Following this, we mated with the CCU base. The CCU is the transport container that will take us from the fuelling hall to the Final Assembly Building.

Sunday 17 February

This was a non-working day. I took the opportunity of taking up a long-standing invite and visited the firemen that work here. They are an important part of the operations as there are a lot of hazardous materials and operations around, and it was very reassuring to know that they are ready to deal with any emergency.

Monday 18 February

Today was a quiet day with regard to the satellite and most of the time was spent packing the equipment no longer required for the satellite operations.

Tuesday 19 February

We started moving the equipment required for the final lift up to the BAF (Batiment Assemblage Finale) where the Ariane 5 rocket is awaiting the satellite's arrival.

Also transported was the COTE, a piece of electrical equipment that is in the launch table and is the interface between the satellite and the satellite control room here at Kourou.

Physically, the launch table and the satellite control room are 10 kilometres apart. The COTE also has to be able to survive a launch abort (the liquid engine firing and shutting down).

Wednesday 20 February

The day started with the satellite being moved into the transport container on the air skate and the door of the transport container being closed followed by the door of the building. These are big doors and take some time to close.

The lorry hitched up to the transport container. Then the satellite was moved from the fuelling hall at a nice steady 15 km per hour.

The road was closed during this time. It is a straight road and normally the traffic speeds down the road at a suicidal rate.

The transport container just before it left the assembly building/fuelling (Astrium)
The transport container just before it left the assembly building
The transport container was then left in the airlock in the BAF to stabilise temperature and humidity. The transport container is also cleaned to ensure that when the container door is opened we do not get the satellite contaminated.

This move was the completion of one major phase and the start of what is the shortest phase of the project: the final countdown.

Thursday 21 February

Today, at long last, we have lifted the satellite on to Ariane 5 and it is now bolted down. Now, the nerves start as we are all beginning to feel that the launch is really getting close.

Following the mate, we have connected the satellite to the umbilical cable down to the COTE. We have switched on the satellite from the control room and all has checked out OK.

We have started removing all the items required for ground operations as well as installing the items required for flight.

Typically, these include sensor covers, which have been used to keep instruments clean. The items still to go on include the last two blankets. We seem to have been putting on blankets for a long time now.

Forthcoming attractions:

  • Complete the removal/installation of the ground/flight equipment
  • Install the fairing
  • Fuel the upper stage
  • Carry out the dress rehearsal for launch
  • Start the countdown for real
  • And launch!

See also:

15 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
08 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
21 Feb 02 | Forum
05 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
20 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
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