Russian State Commission clears Cluster for countdown
12 July 2000The launch of the first pair of Cluster II spacecraft was given the final go-ahead on 11 July in a series of reviews to assess the readiness status of all components.
Officials from ESA, the French-Russian Starsem consortium which has provided the Soyuz-Fregat launcher, and the Russian Aerospace Agency which operates the Baikonur Cosmodrome, participated in the review process.
The first to take place was the Launch Readiness Review, which was chaired by the ESA Science Director, Professor Roger Bonnet. Also present were Starsem Chairman Jean-Yves Le Gall, Cluster II project manager John Ellwood, Cluster II deputy project manager Alberto Gianolio, and Patrick Bonguet, Starsem Director of Operations.
After examining the status of the first two Cluster spacecraft (FM 6 and FM 7), the Fregat upper stage, the Soyuz launch vehicle, and the ground segment, the review board announced that it was satisfied with the state of preparation of all launch elements.
This was followed by the Transfer Readiness Review, which was co-chaired by Starsem, ESA and RKA. The purpose of the review was to agree authorisation of the transfer of the launch vehicle, with its Cluster payload, to the launch pad.
After a mission overview, the readiness of all hardware and software components and of the ground segment, along with all non-conformances identified during the launch preparation operations, were assessed.
Professor Bonnet, Jean-Yves Le Gall, Mr. Soldatenkov - Deputy General Designer of TsSKB, the company in charge of the Soyuz launcher, and Mr. Baikine - Deputy General Designer of NPO-Lavotchkin, the company responsible for the Fregat Upper Stage - concurred that all systems are ready for the roll-out to the launch pad.
Later in the day, the Russian State Commission, co-chaired by Professor Bonnet, by Jean-Yves Le Gall and by General Kuznetsov, RKA Deputy Managing Director, having received the readiness status from all parties involved in the roll-out and subsequent pad operations, gave the final green light for the Soyuz-Fregat launch on the afternoon of 15 July.
The Soyuz-Fregat launcher, to which the Cluster spacecraft have already been integrated, subsequently completed its horizontal roll out to the pad and erection on the launch tower, at 7.30 local time (03.30 CET) on 12 July.
The entire Soyuz stack, weighing about 40 tonnes (unfuelled), was transported by train at slow walking pace from the MIK Soyuz integration facility to launch pad 6. After the launch vehicle was lifted upright, final preparations began for the launch in three days time.