Tag Archives: Cleanroom

The pieces of the puzzle are coming together

The activities on the spacecraft are almost finished. The great achievement of last week was the smooth deployment of the sunshield. The Astrium and Sener teams are now giving the final touch to configure the satellite for flight. This week we will check for the last time the leak tightness of the propellant tanks and then Gaia will be ready to move to another building (called S5A) where it will be fuelled. With Gaia almost ready it was time to have a look to other pieces of the puzzle. We therefore paid a visit to the MIK building (MIK is the Russian acronym for the huge hall where the three stages of...

video

Gaia sunshield deployment time lapse sequence

Here are some nice time-lapse sequences from the deployment test of the Gaia Deployable Sunshield Assembly (DSA) on 10 October 2013, in the cleanroom at Europe's spaceport in Kourou.     Since the DSA will operate in microgravity, it is not designed to support its own weight in the one-g environment at Earth's surface. Therefore, during deployment testing on the ground, the DSA panels are attached to a system of support cables and counterweights that bears their weight, preventing damage and providing a realistic test environment. Once in space, the sunshield has two purposes: to shade Gaia's sensitive telescopes and cameras, and to provide power to operate the spacecraft. Gaia will always...

Pyrotechnic and 24 bangs: The sunshield deployment

Several cameras have been strategically positioned around the spacecraft and programmed to take a picture every 3 seconds. Inside the cleanroom, utter silence pervades, which is interrupted only by the regular clicking of the cameras. Three windows provide a view of the cleanroom from the rooms outside. Behind those windows, the rooms teem with people. All eyes are glued to the spacecraft. The anticipation in the air is sliced by the sudden ringing of a red telephone on the wall. We’ve been expecting the call: the software team is ready to command the deployment sequence. There is only time for one last quick check: are we good to go? The team leader...

Installing the Gaia Sunshield

Six in the morning in Kourou: outside it is still dark, but the thermometers are already reading 24 degrees Celsius, and the relative humidity has remained 92% through the night. After sunrise at 06:18 today, the temperature will climb to reach a maximum of 34 degrees in the afternoon. The Gaia spacecraft, however, is inside the cleanroom, where the temperature is maintained at a constant 23 degrees. Air is circulated through filters to preserve a clean environment, and the humidity in the cleanroom will be kept at about 50%. In the airlock leading to the cleanroom, the Astrium Assembly, Integration and Testing (AIT) team and the SENER Sunshield team are getting ready...

Hiding from the Sun

Halfway between the Caribbean Sea and the Amazonian rain forest, French Guiana offers amazing nature and some incredible photo opportunities. But trying to find the best views will have you wandering around under the scorching tropical Sun. How about carrying with you a good old beach umbrella to protect yourself from the burning Sun while keeping an unobstructed sight of the landscape around you? Now, think about a large beach umbrella. And I mean a really large one. To be precise 10.5 metres in diameter, with a surface area of 90 square metres. That’s almost the size of half a tennis court, or an area large enough to park three passenger buses!...

From VS-07 to VS-06

Last week was busy with a number of electrical tests performed in two shifts. In practice it has been busier than anyone could have expected. Of course, electrical tests and the life of a team of more than 50 persons inevitably leads daily to a number of questions needing to be answered generally sooner than later. Our preparation was good enough to cover most of this. However, when postponement of the launch of four O3B satellites – originally planned for 30 September – was confirmed, adaption from all parties was necessary. We were originally assigned VS-07 (Vol Soyuz 7) and suddenly became VS-06. Just one digit change should not be dramatic but...

Spacecraft switch on

Activities are progressing well. The electrical team has set up all the electrical test equipment in the control room. This control room is adjacent to the cleanroom, where the spacecraft is, with a window in between. This makes it easy to communicate visually. Then a big bundle of cables runs from the control room to the satellite through a hole in the wall. The first switch on after transportation is always an exciting moment. You never know what might have happened during transport and packing/unpacking – a loose screw, a broken connector... you just don't want to end up with smoke coming out of the spacecraft! There are however numerous safety mechanisms...

Gaia comes to life – spacecraft ready for switch-...

As soon as brought out of its transport container, Gaia's verification and preparation for launch could start. The first verification activity allowed to confirm that transport did not impact the alignment of some sensitive equipment like thrusters and star trackers. Then, the Astrium Stevenage team took over and verified the functionality and leak tightness of Gaia's propulsion systems. This is a must to comply to safety before pressurising gas tanks and loading propellant tanks with dangerous fluids. The picture shows the set-up of the spacecraft in the S1B clean room connected to its fluidic equipment. The next step is the electrical verification. A number of new participants just arrived to support the...

Out of the box – Gaia unveiled

The transport container with the spacecraft was opened on Monday last week in the clean room of the launch centre. In the clean room the air is strictly controlled to a very high level of purity,  the temperature is kept stable at 21 °C and the humidity below 60%. These conditions are very important for Gaia which has very delicate optical systems. Here are some photos showing the phase of opening the container. Above: The container has just been opened and the cover is ready to be lifted. On the left wall one can see the two fans of the redundant air conditioning system. Also the air inside the container has been...

Gaia’s first days at the spaceport in Kourou

Just after landing in Cayenne, Felix Eboué airport, the Gaia spacecraft container and accompanying equipment have been transported by trucks to Europe's spaceport in Kourou CSG (Centre Spatial Guyanais). Due to works on the road and due to the locally famous cycle Tour de Guyane, the transport was tricky to plan, with a risk to be forced to wait a few hours at the airport in case of delayed departure. Thanks to the timely arrival of the plane and to the good preparation, the spacecraft container convoy reached the S1B integration building at CSG in time. During transport under the tropical heat, the atmosphere inside the spacecraft container is controlled using a...

The next steps: A timeline of the final launch preparat...

The Gaia spacecraft is now safely packed into its container at the Astrium premises in Toulouse where it was built, awaiting its departure end of this week for the launch site. The next time, we’ll see the satellite will be at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Exciting! Giuseppe will report on the happenings and send pictures from the arrival directly from Kourou next week. In the meantime, let’s have a look at the next steps. In total, some 70 people from ESA and Astrium will be in Kourou, working in two shifts, Monday to Saturday, to get everything ready for launch. Until the launch window opens on 17 November, there are plenty...

Ready for launch!

With the final tests and the Mission Flight Acceptance Review successfully concluded, Gaia is now ready for launch and has been assigned a launch window from 17 November to 5 December 2013. Meanwhile Gaia has been ‘switched off' and packed, and will be shipped to Kourou in the second half of August in order to prepare for its launch. Ready to go at last! The Gaia spacecraft is seen here at the Astrium premises, being packed in its high-tech case in preparation for shipping to Kourou. The shipment of Gaia will take place in two steps: The spacecraft will leave Toulouse on 22 August at 20:00, landing in the early morning of...