From the MetOp launch campaign team, Baikonur, 20 March
Checking the payload module antennas
The photo was taken this morning and shows engineers doing a functional test of the antennas. This afternoon they are checking the alignment before they eventually attach the solar array to the satellite. The large array, which weighs in at over 200 kg, will be gently deployed when MetOp-B is in orbit. This procedure takes around 15 minutes and happens in two stages: the solar array arm first rotates and then the large eight-section panel opens out to face the Sun.
The photo below gives an impression of just how big the MetOp satellites are. In fact, after Envisat, MetOp is the largest Earth-observation satellite built in Europe.
Ths large satellite carries an impressive suite of instruments
A happy team after MetOp-B health check
From Damiano Serlenga (ESA), Baikonur Cosmodrome, 19 March 2012
MetOp-B launch campaign team
Still snowing here in Baikonur! This photo of the team was taken in front of the MIK-112 after Test Review Board of the ‘satellite health check’. This test confirms the instruments on MetOp-B are ‘alive’. There were about 80 of us involved in the test, including support teams from Europe, USA and Canada. The whole teams has been working a double shift for a week to get through the test.
Everything has gone well and we’re now ready for the next milestone: integrating MetOp-B’s solar array.
Unloading and unpacking
From Damiano Serlenga (ESA), Baikonur Cosmodrome, 12 March 2012
MetOp-B unpacked and positioned
Following our arrival in Baikonur on 21 February, and then the next two shipments, we have been busy unpacking and setting things up for the campaign.
After some delays because of the weather, the second Antonov carrying MetOp-B, finally arrived on 6 March.
The cargo is transported from the airfield to the integration facilities, the MIK, by train.
On 8 March, MetOp-B and the support equipment, the third flight carrying the solar array arrived. It took five hours to unload and carry to the MIK.
Things are going well and it’s good to see MetOp and all the equipment being unpacked.
MetOp launch campaign takes off
From Damiano Serlenga (ESA), Baikonur Cosmodrome, 6 March 2012
Loading MetOp-B onto the Antonov aircraft at Toulouse airport
We have arrived at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. We flew on an Antonov cargo aircraft from Toulouse, France along with several containers of ground support equipment we need to prepare MetOp-B for launch on 23 May.
The shipment from France to Kazakhstan was made by three Antonov cargo aircraft. The first carried 12 containers of equipment needed to prepare the satellite for launch, the second carried the MetOp-B satellite (the payload module and service module) along with another 6 containers and the third flight carried MetOp-B’s solar array and 10 more containers.
The journey hasn’t been easy as the weather caused delays. In fact, the satellite shipment was held up in Moscow for more than three days because of snow.
MetOp-B will follow on from MetOp-A, which was launched in 2006, to provide essential data for weather predication and climate monitoring. Since MetOp-A is still in service, the two satellites will fly in tandem.
The series of MetOp satellites carry a host of sensitive instruments to measure a wide range of variables such as temperature and humidity, wind speed and direction over oceans, ozone and other atmospheric gases.
The coming weeks will be spent integrating and testing this second MetOp satellite before it joins its Soyuz launcher that will take it into polar orbit.