Monthly Archives: April 2012

MetOp-B launch postponed

Eumetsat and the European Space Agency (ESA) have been informed by the launch service provider, Starsem, that the launch of the MetOp-B satellite by a Soyuz rocket, scheduled for 23 May from Baikonur, had to be postponed. This is due to additional measures required to ensure the availability of safe drop zones for parts of the launcher after lift-off.   The launch has been postponed for some weeks, until appropriate measures are implemented. It is expected to take place in the second half of July, after the launch of the geostationary MSG-3 spacecraft, which is scheduled for 19 June from CSG, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

MetOp fairing: scrupulously clean

From Phi-Hung (ESA), Baikonur, 24 April The Soyuz fairing that will encapsulate MetOp, which arrived at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in March, has passed a critical inspection. After the inside and outside of the fairing halves had had a through clean, they were transferred to the cleanroom ready for a ‘cleanliness inspection’ by the team from ESA, with members from Astrium and Eumetsat in attendance. This is a meticulous check where every inch of the fairing is carefully looked over using a white light and a UV lamp to make sure that it is free of ‘foreign object debris’ such as dust, particles, fibres, glue. Using the two different lamps means that the team...

MetOp checked for fuelling

From Nick (ESA), Baikonur, 24 April Final health checks on MetOp-B’s Reaction Control System (RCS) have been completed in preparation for fuelling. The RCS consists of tanks that will contain the Hydrazine fuel pressurised with Helium gas, and several small thrusters that can be used to adjust the satellite’s orbit after separation from the launcher. The specialist team from Astrium Ltd, who prepare the RCS for launch, arrived in Baikonur in mid-April and quickly began to test the RCS to make sure everything was working correctly following shipment.  Tests include functional checks of the valves and pressure transducers, a calibration of the pressure sensors and tests to ensure there are no leaks...

MetOp readied for fuelling

From Damiano (ESA), Baikonur 17 April The MetOp launch campaign has now reached the end of the first preparation phase during which a number of activities have been successfully carried out. Straight after the arrival at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the MetOp Payload Module and the Service Module were mated together. MetOp was then tested to verify the health of the instruments and equipment onboard. Following the functional verifications, we have performed some mechanical verification. The building up of the spacecraft has continued with the integration of the solar array, the pyrotechnical devices and the finalisation of the thermal blankets – the multilayer insulation. To close this first phase of operations, we performed...

MetOp wrapped

From Sylvain (ESA), Baikonur, 11 April Temperature control is very important to ensure that all of MetOp’s electronics and instruments function optimally in space. When in orbit around Earth, the satellite passes between sunlight and shadow. Consequently, it has to withstand extreme swings in temperature: from below –100° C to above 100°C. This is why a dedicated thermal design was chosen to keep the electronics within a more ‘gentle’ range of temperatures, generally between 0–20°C. This is done by using a combination of active thermal control measures such as electrical heaters and passive methods such as space-qualified paints, tapes and multilayer insulation (MLI), essentially on the external surfaces of the satellite. The MLI...

A week in pictures: MetOp-B nears launch configuration

From ESA’s launch campaign team, Baikonur, 3 April Last week was busy, but things went well. The main activities included the pyro-connection, alignment, solar array integration and finishing off applying the multilayer insulation. To take all the alignment measurements, the satellite was positioned vertically on a ‘rotary table’. Measurements were taken using reference mirror cubes and thodolite to verify the instrument and the attitude and orbit control system were aligned. In total, 58 measurements were taken. Then came the task of joining the solar array to the satellite. To do this satellite was tilted and rotated to receive the array. The integration the solar array was finally completed and tested. In parallel, the multilayer...