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Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 17:57 GMT
Space diary: Launch practice
Arian 5, BBC
Practice makes perfect: What it should look like on Friday
Three days and counting. Europe's biggest ever Earth-observation satellite, Envisat, will go into orbit in the early hours of Friday (GMT). Project manager Derek Todman details the latest preparations in Kourou, French Guiana, in his diary for BBC News Online.

Monday 25 February

Today, Arianespace completed the fuelling of the upper stage of the rocket and loaded the six tonnes of nitrogen tetroxide.

They still have to fill the lower stage with liquid hydrogen and oxygen. The solid boosters are already packed with the solid propellant.

Starting at 17:00 last night, we began the countdown dress rehearsal. This is done with all parties involved: the launch authorities, safety, the satellite, the ground stations, the ground control centre at Damstadt in Germany, etc.

In reality, our countdown starts three days before but we accelerated the period up to lift minus six hours. So, apart from one or two little problems associated with the fact that the rocket and the satellite are still in the final assembly building rather than on the launch pad, it was a very good rehearsal.

I now think we are ready for the real thing, starting tomorrow when we begin arming the satellite.

Envisat will ride into orbit on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe's spaceport in Kourou at 22:07 local time (02:07 CET, 01:07 GMT).

Built by a consortium of 50 companies led by Astrium, Envisat is the successor to the European Space Agency's ERS satellites. Envisat has an array of 10 instruments that will allow scientists to monitor the land, oceans, atmosphere and ice caps, to check on the health of the planet.


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