The revised launch date for the Metop-B satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome has been set for 19 September 2012. The launch campaign will resume in early July.
Encapsulation of the MSG satellite went ahead as planned on 27 June.
This means that the configuration of the launcher is now complete with MSG and its co-passenger, EchoStar, inside the rocket’s faring.
EchoStar is in upper position in the fairing and MSG below.
With this new milestone complete, the final steps before launch on 5 July will include functional tests, launch rehearsal, readiness review and rollout to the launch pad.
MSG-3 has been moved to the Final Assembly Building or ‘BAF’ as it is known at the launch site and mated to the top of the Ariane 5 rocket. This is one of the final steps in the campaign to make MSG-3 ready for launch on 5 July.
The satellite was first placed in the payload container so that it could be safely towed by truck to the BAF. It’s about 10 km between facilities so the transfer took about two hours.
The pictures below offer some insight into what’s being going on in Kourou over the last couple of days. Since the mating procedure is Arianespace’s responsibility, only a few of the campaign team were there to witness the event. The photos of the mating were captured from the TV monitor so they are a bit fuzzy.
Another milestone has been reached in the campaign to prepare MSG-3 for launch: the satellite has been joined to the launch adapter.
The MSG-3 satellite was taken off the fuel stand and mated to the launch adapter on Friday 22 June. Since the satellite is now fully fuelled, this a rather hazardous operation.
The first step was to unclamped the satellite from the stand that supported it during fuelling. Attached to a crane, the satellite was then lifted slightly and slowly moved across the room to line up with the launch adapter.
The satellite was then lowered very carefully onto the adapter and then securely clamped.
The MSG-3 satellite has now been fully fuelled, marking a major milestone in the launch campaign.
Yesterday, the team finished loading 365 kg of liquid fuel (Monomethyl Hydrazine, MMH). This follows the earlier fuelling with liquid oxidizer (Mixed Oxides of Nitrogen, MON).
In total, the fuel has increased the mass of MSG-3 by about a ton.
MSG-3 will now be installed on the launcher adapter. On Monday, it will be moved to the Final Assembly Building, BAF, for integration on the launcher later next week.
The launcher and EchoStar 17 (co-passenger) activities are also proceeding as planned.
With third Meteosat Second Generation (MSG-3) set to liftoff on 5 July from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, the team on site has be busy over the last weeks preparing the satellite for launch.
Most recently, the launch adapter has been thoroughly inspected. The adapter is an essential component as it connects the launcher with the satellite. A clamp band secures satellite to the adapter.
A few minutes after launch, the clamp band opens and six springs around the upper ring push the satellite away from the adapter. This is a critical stage of the launch sequence, signalling ‘separation’. Engineers from Thales Alenia Space have carefully checked the position of the accelerometers that record the shocks to the lower part of the satellite when the launcher fairing and clamp band open.
The next step is to join or ‘mate’ the MSG-3 satellite to the adapter.
Earlier this week, marked a new phase of the launch campaign called POC, which stands for Plan d'Opération Combiné or Combined Operation Plan and marks ‘Launch minus 12 working days’.
So, from 19 June all the launch activities in the preparation facilities follow very careful planning under the leadership of Arianespace. Tasks are defined by the hour as well as by the day and each is carefully assigned. Daily meetings take place where the green light is given for activities the following day.
Since the EchoStar 17 telecommunication satellites is being launched with MSG-3 on the Ariane 5 rocket, it is also included in the POC. In fact, EchoStar will be the first to be integrated in the launcher fairing.
Before integration on the launcher, MSG-3 was fuelled with oxidizer (Mixed Oxides of Nitrogen, MON) and fuel (Monomethyl Hydrazine, MMH).
Owing to the toxicity of these products, this operation is carried out by specialists who wear SCAPE (Self Contained Atmospheric Protective Ensemble) suits. Two teams of two operate in four-hour shifts. To ensure no mistakes are made, each fuelling technician is checked by the other team member present and also monitored from the control room.
Stabilisation phases are necessary between injections to make sure that propellants are equally split between the tanks. During these stabilisation phases, the team remains in the hall and take time to recover from the exhausting (physically and mentally) injection phase.
In the photo below, which was taken from the monitor screens in the control room, we can see one of the team resting his head – the weight of the heavy helmet is particularly tiring.
The fuelling took three days and was completed on 21 June. In total, 601.5 kg of MON and 365.5 kg of MMH were loaded, bringing the total mass of MSG-3 to 2031.7 kg.
Prior to fuelling the exact dry mass of the MSG-3 satellite had to be determined. The dry mass, added to the mass of propellant plus/minus the few red and green tag items to be added and removed for launch, provides the exact mass of the spacecraft at launch.
The dry mass is calculated with a method called double weighing to eliminate and chance of error. The principle involves using a calibrated load cell to make two measurements and then this is repeated.
The dry mass was calculated at 1064.6 kg.
The photos below show a few of the milestones in the launch campaign prior to the mass test.