INTEGRAL spacecraft delivered to ESA
30 July 2001After being assembled by prime contractor Alenia Spazio, INTEGRAL has now been delivered to ESA's ESTEC facility in the Netherlands. Environmental and system tests are now to take place on the gamma-ray observatory in view of a launch in October 2002.
Since 2 July some 30 vehicles had been ferrying the ground handling equipment, test benches and finally the spacecraft itself from Turin to ESA's Space Technology and Research Centre in Noordwijk. Passing via the Frejus tunnel between Italy and France, then up the Rhone valley towards the Benelux, each journey took on average 5 days.
The final and most important convoy was the precious satellite itself. Leaving on 17 July, it transported the service module and the payload module in two large containers. This exceptional convoy was accompanied by police escorts as it passed from Italy, through France and Belgium to the Netherlands.
The two halves of the satellite, each suspended in their containers to absorb any shocks and vibrations, were supplied through out the journey by a continuous ventilation of clean air. The internal conditions of the containers and the two external pumps were frequently checked by a transport officer from Alenia and ESA quality control and mechanical engineers.
ESA Project Manager Kai Clausen and several members of the INTEGRAL team were waiting as the convoy arrived on Saturday 21 July. As the trailors backed into the unloading dock adjoining the clean-rooms, everybody was aware that another milestone was being reached.
"We are relieved and happy that this major logistical exercise of transporting everything across Europe is over safely, and that the satellite is now with us" says Eliseo Balaguer, INTEGRAL's ESA Assemby, Integration and Verification Manager. "Reaching this stage represents a big accomplishment for all of us and for our Alenia colleagues."
During the following days, ESA and Alenia staff 'unpacked' the two modules. The service module is now being prepared for electromagnetic checks to ensure its compatability with the Proton launcher upper stage.
The payload module structure, which already carries two of the mission's four science instruments - SPI and the OMC, with IBIS and JEM-X remaining to be integrated this autumn - is now being covered with multi-layer thermal insulation (MLI) before the two modules are mated around 17 August.