Currently, we are working on four launch campaigns. This is a lot even by the Guiana Space Centre standards, and the reason is that two of them are quite long: BepiColombo and MetOp-C.

Today, with the arrival of Aeolus, I believe we broke the record for number of satellites being processed in parallel at the Spaceport:

  • 4 Galileo satellites for Ariane flight 244 (all by ESA/European Commission)
  • 3 spacecrafts that combine to form BepiColombo (two by ESA and one by JAXA)
  • Metop-C (an ESA satellite for Eumetsat)
  • Aeolus (an Earth Explorer ESA satellite)

This makes 9 satellites in total — that must be a record. Equipment and supplies are stored here, there, and everywhere, and we have had to increase office space by putting up bungalows outside the largest payload facility to accommodate everyone!

Home sweet home… the old ATV logo is still visible on the wall

In parallel to these 9 satellites being prepared, we are running 3 separate launch pads (Ariane, Soyuz and Vega).

Also in parallel, we are:

  • Building a new launch pad for Ariane 6
  • Modifying the Vega launch site so that it can be used for Vega C
  • Modifying the Ariane 5 preparation areas
  • Making necessary changes to the solid booster production and assembly to allow full production of P120C — the upgraded Ariane 6 and Vega C solid motor — that will be produced 35 times per year
  • Building lots of roads to connect all these new sites
  • Laying kilometers of wiring and ducts to connect everything

Us Europeans can be proud of what is being done here.

You can follow the Ariane 6 Launcher and Launch Base development at Ariane 6’s own website, found here, and you can follow the Aeolus launch campaign activities via their blog here.

The need for Aeolus — which will measure wind speeds from space — became even more apparent over the weekend. We had had several days of nice dry weather, interrupted by sporadic downpours, but these did not last long. You could sense that the rainy season was drawing to a close. Then on Sunday, when I went for a walk/run on the beach, I saw a dark blue mass of clouds gathering on the horizon. I did my walk/run as planned and got home just before the skies opened.

Snug in my new house, I spent at least 4 minutes watching the spectacle. The wind tore around the corner of the house and the coconut palms swayed menacingly in the wind… Luckily for me, a company that manages the green areas of the Spaceport had prepared both house and garden for my arrival last week on Thursday, so all trees had been cut back and loose branches removed.

In the morning, the Monday paper was full of images from Cayenne showing damage caused by the downpour and the high winds… at least one big roof flew off. Very impressive!

The days are just packed and it is a great time to be here.

Charlotte Beskow

Head of the ESA Space Transportation Office in Kourou