Deployment of the Gaia sunshield array
Engineers from SENER and Astrium prepare to test Gaia’s Deployable Sunshield Assembly (DSA) in the S1B cleanroom at the Centre Spatial Guyanais in Kourou, French Guiana.
The Gaia spacecraft was flown on an Antonov transport plane from Toulouse Blagnac airport in France to Félix Eboué airport in French Guiana on 23 August 2013. The DSA arrived five days later.
Prior to transport, the multi-layer insulation (MLI) of the DSA had been removed for inspection and storage. Once in Kourou, the DSA had to be ‘reconstructed’ by installing the MLI and solar panels on the framework, and tested.
The DSA is stowed (folded against the spacecraft body) for launch and is deployed an hour later. Part of the testing at Kourou involved checking the deployment mechanisms. To partly simulate the conditions under which the deployment would take place, and to protect the DSA, the tests were carried out with a gravity compensation system. This system involves hanging each frame from a cable guided through pulleys along metallic beams to a system of counterweights placed around the spacecraft.
The DSA was successfully tested on 10 October 2013. (See the time lapse sequence of the tests here.)
The Prime Contractor for Gaia is Astrium SAS, based in Toulouse, France. SENER (Spain) is responsible for the development and manufacture of the Deployable Sunshield Assembly. The thermal blankets are provided by RUAG Aerospace Austria and the carbon fibre frames come from RUAG Aerospace Switzerland.