Tag Archives: jungle

A secretary in the jungle

If you are anticipating a technical blog – stop reading this now, as I am surely the least technical person in the Gaia Project Team. Let me introduce myself, I am Helma, the Gaia project secretary. I’ve been on the project since day one, which is about ten years ago, so I sometimes joke about Gaia being my first baby (I’ve had two actual babies in the meantime). When people ask me why I have to go French Guiana for months I tell them ‘to support our Launch Campaign’. Then I get ‘Yes but what do you actually do?’ Besides the normal work like documentation, handling timesheets, leave requests, and a million...

Trip of a lifetime: Young ESA’s visit to Kourou

Ever flew over Kourou? Ever climbed a palm tree? Ever slept in a hammock in the jungle? Ever been to paradise with the devil around the corner? We, some of the Young ESA members, were the lucky ones who actually experienced it all in French Guiana two weeks ago. It was possible thanks to the perfect organization of Juan de Dalmau who guided us for a week through the culture, nature and spaceport – and yes, it was great fun! We had the chance to learn about the culture in French Guiana as well as taste the rainforest life! During the first days we visited Cayenne and its traditional market, spent some...

IT Phone home

Being an Information Technology (IT) specialist may not sound as glamorous as some of the other roles that people have out here in Kourou, but it is just perhaps just as important since we all rely heavily on our computers and online communications, not only for a successful launch campaign, but also to stay connected with our families thousands of miles away back home. Being an IT specialist in the jungle also presents with it some unique challenges, but the unusual technical problems are probably the most interesting to deal with! I’m no stranger to Kourou launch campaigns, having worked on Rosetta and Herschel and Planck in the past. Before the Gaia...

Meet the team: what’s a Project Controller doing all th...

A launch campaign is the final big leap for a space project, where all the teams work hand in hand for several weeks: the ESA Team, the Industrial Team, CNES and Arianespace. It sees a significant number of people, performing different activities, from the critical fuelling of the spacecraft to the exciting pushing of the final button in the control room. But there are other people, working a little more in the background, that are necessary for the smooth running of all the compressed and fast activities during the campaign. For example, what is a Project Controller doing all the way into the jungle, where no programmatic papers nor procurement best practices...

The first days of a launch campaign in French Guiana

Reading the Gaia blog reminds me of the launch campaign of Hipparcos, Gaia’s precursor mission launched in 1989, when I was on training in Kourou to become Range Operations Manager (or DDO – Directeur d’opérations in the French space jargon). I was privileged to be the first non-French staff member seconded by ESA to work for CNES at the Spaceport. In those days, we were launching Ariane 3 and Ariane 4 vehicles. The arrival of a new launch team was always an exciting moment. The DDO and his team had been preparing for many months, and this was the start of a work-intensive project of two to three months leading up to...