ATV-3 launch minus 4 months. Day 79 of the campaign – Thursday, 17 November
The latest update from ESA’s Charlotte Beskow in Kourou – Ed.
The Engineering Support Team (EST) is busy preparing for the full-scale mission simulation to be held 21-25 November. Several new team members have joined, replacing those that have moved on, and they are busy familiarising themselves with the ATV-CC tools and facilities.
Editor’s note: The EST comprises experts from the ATV project as well as industry. They work in a dedicated control room at ATV-CC and are the vehicle engineering and technology experts; they monitor every aspect of the flight during critical phases (launch, docking, etc.) and are available on the voice loop (or in person, of course) to provide assistance to the Mission Director.
In one corner, we have the newcomers to the GNC/GMS section (looking after ATV’s Guidance & Navigation System and the GNC Measurement System) being coached under the watchful eye of an experienced team mate…
… while, squeezed in close by, is the rest of their group…
And, in another corner, sit the Propulsion & Thermal experts.
As can be seen in these live-action, if a little ‘back of the head’-ish, photos, everyone is intensely focused on preparing for the week-long simulation. Shown here is a preview using a replay of (actual) ATV-2 mission data.
These are the experts who know the ATV vessel’s innards and technology, and now must master the control centre equipment so they can effectively help manage the actual mission.
We are four months away from launch and from Monday, 21 November to Friday, 25 November, ATV-CC in Toulouse is running a full-scale simulation covering the mission from countdown (before launch) up to docking. All teams will be present and seated ‘on console’ working 24h/24h – just like we will when ATV Edoardo Amaldi is launched in March 2012.
While the new EST are getting trained, the EST leaders huddle in the coffee corner and work out the details of the staffing schedule, i.e., who will be on shift, when. The EST comprises 32 experts, and an hour-by-hour planning schedule must be available to ensure that, first, EST representatives are present for the critical portions of the mission and, second, that we respect the labour laws on working hours!
As we are cross-checking the latest changes to the mission time-line (which is planned out down to the second), an email arrives: French President Nicholas Sarkozy has confirmed his visit to CNES on 22 November! The following restrictions apply: … no vehicles can enter or leave the CNES Toulouse establishment (Centre spatial de Toulouse – CST) between 09:00-13:00… The canteen will be closed… we carry on regardless.
Next up: a shift change at 11:00… We rework it…
Then our CNES counterpart drops by. “What kind of ID badges do you have?” he asks. We show him our frequent-visitor badge, which gives us access to ESA’s ATV facilities located within the Toulouse establishment. “I am not sure you can enter at all on Tuesday,” he says… Great! It’s now Thursday evening, the simulation starts on Monday morning. Team members will travel Sunday night… We finalise the temporary planning schedule and send it out.
Happily, on Friday, 18 November, we are informed that, yes, we can enter and leave, but on foot. Oh well; that’s fine. The ATV EST are a flexible lot!
It promises to be an exciting week!