First Cluster II mating completed
10 November 1998Inside a giant clean room in Friedrichshafen, Germany, ESA's first new Cluster II spacecraft is starting to take shape. On 2 November, some six weeks after assembly firstbegan, engineers from Dornier Satellitensysteme began to mate thering-shaped main equipment platform of Cluster flight model #6 with its cylindrical central section.
The 1.2 metre-diameter cylinder was delivered by lorry to Dornier's plant in Friedrichshafen in mid-October. Over the next two months a team of about 30 Dornier staff will be working flat out to attach 11 scientific experiments to the aluminium structure and complete its assembly. Several more months of testing will follow before the spacecraft is delivered to IABG in Munich for further exhaustive trials.
"This is a significant step along the road to completion of the first Cluster II spacecraft", said ESA project manager John Ellwood.
Hardware for the four identical Cluster II spacecraft is provided for ESA by some of the leading space companies in Europe. The newly mated central cylinder, which was assembled by Matra Marconi Space in Bristol, UK., contains the spacecraft's reaction control system, which will enable ground controllers to change its orbital position. It comprises 80 metres of interweaving pipes and valves, six large fuel tanks made of titanium and eight manoeuvring thrusters. The central structure and the 2.9 metre diameter platform itself are constructed in Switzerland by Contraves.
"Eventually the spacecraft will include elements from virtually every ESA Member State", said Ellwood.
The Cluster II spacecraft are scheduled to be launched in mid-2000 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan by two Soyuz launch vehicles.
Cluster II replicates the original Cluster mission. Its aim is to investigate the physical interaction between the Sun and the Earth, with four spacecraft flying in tetrahedral formation.