First Cluster II spacecraft begins integration
28 September 1998The race to construct and test four identical Cluster II spacecraft in 18months is now under way after engineers from the European Space Agency and Dornier Satellite Systems successfully completed their Pre-Integration Review on 22 September. This cleared the way for work to begin on Flight Model #6 atDornier's Friedrichshafen plant.
Construction of such large, highly sophisticated spacecraft is similar to the assembly of a giant Lego model. Each cylindrical Cluster II spacecraft measures 2.9 metres in diameter and 1.3 metres in height, and will carry an identical set of 11 scientific instruments. Over the next 18 months, engineers will have to carefully attach more than 400 boxes of hardware to the four Cluster II spacecraft, including some 2.2 tonnes of scientific equipment.
During the first stage in the complex integration process, the power and computer processing subsystems will be added to the spacecrafts bare metal structure. This initial stage should be completed by mid-October, enabling integration of the scientific payload to take place. The first completed Cluster II spacecraft is expected to be transported to Dornier's Munich plant in March 1999. All four of the Cluster II space fleet must be completed and ready for transport to the launch centre at Baikonur by early 2000.