Early this morning – meaning at 06:00 – we were greeted by a wonderful dawn with completely clear sky.
Having arrived at the MIK 20 minutes before the start of the rollout, we saw the military’s last preparatory activities, with all the people lined-up in front of their Chief being debriefed on their respective role.
At precisely 06:00, the train convoy, which comprises the locomotive, thermal conditioning wagon with air conditioning system and equipment to measure environmental conditions during transport, and the satellite transportation unit left the MIK and started the three-hour six-km trip to the launch pad.
At 09:00 some of us had the opportunity to assist at the launch pad with the arrival of the convoy, which was shining bright under the light of the sun just rising in front of it.
We couldn’t have hoped for anything better!
All good things have always a price though. In our case, it was the temperature, which was colder than it has been these past few days. Minus 5°C on the thermometer combined with the unusually cold wind at 30 km/hr felt like –11°C. This tested the courage of those of us at the pad.
The fairing was lifted on top of the booster unit, connected and ready to start testing.
Today two test phases were planned: first the Russian team performed the electrical test of the launcher part until approximately 15:00 and after that we received the authorisation to switch on the satellite for our Sentinel-3 electrical tests – the first time in final launch configuration.
Satellite tests started at 15:15 and completed successfully at around 18:00.
From tomorrow onwards all activities will concentrate on the rehearsal of the launch day. Some switch on of the satellite and battery charging phase are also included.
In conclusion of this report, I should mention that today Stephane, our ESA photographer and Dominique, our ESA TV producer, had both a glorious day: the first accompanying the Russian photographer around the launch pad for almost three hours to ensure this special day was captured, the second trying to get decent interviews out of four semi-frozen people after standing in front of the launch pad for two hrs.
Unfortunately today, together with all the good news, we also have to report an accident that occurred during our visit to the launch pad. One of our Thales colleagues slipped on an icy part of the ground around the launch tower and broke his ankle. He will go home in the coming days – we wish him well.
For information about our Sentinel-3 mission visit www.esa.int/sentinel-3
From the ESA Sentinel-3A team at the Plesetsk cosmodrome in Russia.