Tag Archives: sunshield

Gaia payload module integration

One month at L2

Gaia has been in its operational orbit around L2 for about a month now, where it is undergoing a very rigorous test programme before starting on its main science observations. Like many relocations, it can take some...

Some Gaia numbers

We have heard and read many numbers about Gaia: the number of stars and other objects that it will observe, the maximum observable magnitude, the microarcsecond of accuracy and the remarkable focal length of 35 m. We have also read that such a powerful telescope on Earth would be able to detect a button on the spacesuit of an astronaut on the Moon. But let’s look at more hidden numbers. It took over 3.5 million hours to study, design, build and test Gaia. That’s about 300 people working full time for 7 years, spread over 74 different companies and 16 countries. Meanwhile the design and implementation of the science and the operations...

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...

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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...

Hard work and a successful launch as reward

At 02:45 this morning, the 2nd Antonov carrying the Deployable Sunshield (DSA) and the remainder of the Ground Support Equipment landed in Cayenne. Waiting to meet it and unload the cargo were the Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG) transport team supported by Astrium “heavy gang” with representatives from ESA and Arianespace.   This meant a very early start from Kourou for all involved in the activity. Just part of the ups and downs of a launch campaign. The operation went very smoothly and thanks to some welcome "ti" dejeuner with hot coffee kindly delivered by Freelance, we were able to complete the loading of the trucks in good time for the road journey...

Preparing for the arrival of the Gaia sunshield

Today is dedicated for preparations for the arrival of the second shipment with the Deployable Sunshield Assembly and the electrical ground support test equipment. We just heard that the Anotonov has arrived at the airport in Cayenne and the off-load is currently ongoing. It will then be transported by truck to the spaceport. We'll share pictures once it has arrived. Here is a nice animation showing the deployment of Gaia’s 10m diameter sunshade once in space. Meanwhile, the launch team continues to grow with the arrival of ESA and Astrium members. With the inspection of the satellite successfully completed, preparations continue for the start of the check-out of the propulsion systems. People...