Green light to fuel rocket
The day before launch, and the process of fuelling the Rockot launcher that will take Swarm into orbit has started at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.
Rockot launch tower at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. (ESA–S. Corvaja)
Yesterday evening the State Commission authorised the go-ahead to fuel the launcher. This formal authorisation confirms that launch can take place, as planned on 22 November at 13:02 (CET).
The authorisation follows a formal review, which concluded that the satellite, the launcher, the launch pad, the cosmodrome and the ground station network is ready.
Fuelling therefore stated this morning at 07:00 CET (10:00 local time) and should be completed by 22:00 CET.
Juicing up our satellite: MetOp-B fuelled
From Luca (ESA), Baikonur, 31 August
MetOp-B’s Reaction Control System (RCS) – the mission's thrusters – has been fuelled and pressurised in preparation for launch on 17 September.
Fuelling MetOp-B Credit: ESA
The satellite was transferred to Starsem's Hazardous Processing Facility for the operation and a specialist team from Astrium carefully checked their equipment before operations could begin. The tank of thruster fuel (MetOp uses hydrazine propellant for propulsion. ) was also transferred from the storage area to the facility.
Hydrazine is a hazardous chemical and has to be handled carefully to ensure the safety of both personnel and the spacecraft. Hydrazine is highly flammable and also poses health risks if it comes in contact with skin or is inhaled. The team therefore have to wear protective suits with an air supply for fuelling operations.
The operators are specially trained to work in these suits while they transfer the propellant to MetOp-B’s RCS. The operations are directed from a remote control room under close supervision.
Monitoring hazardous fuelling operations Credit: ESA
The RCS has now been loaded with several hundred kilos of hydrazine and pressurised ready for launch. The next thing is to transfer the satellite to the Upper Composite Integration Facility for mating with the launch adaptor and the Fregat upper stage, before encapsulation in the launcher fairing.