9 - 22 June 2000
23 June 2000The now fully fuelled spacecraft FM 6 and FM 7 were transferred to the Upper Composite Integration Facility for thermal and mechanical activities, most of which were also completed in this period. After installing the gas boosters on FM 5 and transfer to the HPF, both FM 8 and FM 5 were also fully fuelled, completing the spacecraft fuelling operations.
Mechanical activities are being completed on FM 7, especially the final mass balancing, necessary for such spinning satellite.
A countdown simulation has been performed this afternoon with ESOC (European Space Operations Centre in Germany). Lots of activities are also going on in the offices in view of the Flight Readiness Review, which is taking place tomorrow. This review is going on parallel with the visit to the Baikonur cosmodrome by an important delegation of journalists (about 50) invited by ESA and Starsem, for a duration of 2 days.
Filling with NTO (oxidiser) has been completed on FM 8 in 1/2 day without any problem: more than 400 kg have been loaded into the spacecraft.
All mechanical and thermal activities have been completed on FM 6: it has been installed on the MPT (MultiPurpose Trolley) for power supply end to end test before the stacking with FM 7 which is due to take place at the end of this week.
In parallel, also in the UCIF clean room, the adapter (the so-called ACU) is prepared for stacking with the verification of the pyro line of the clamp band.
The battery conditioning is continuing, in a fresh environment for the technicians involved as their room temperature is set at 18 °C, which is much better than for the people working on the launch pad tower where the temperature is 40 °C!
The validation of the links on the launch pad is still on-going: the telecom and electrical people are encountering all types of classical engineering problems (power breakdown; noise; wrong wiring etc.), which are tackled one by one...which makes the validation a bit longer than foreseen.
In the meantime, we have learned from the Starsem people that the preparation on the Fregat stage is progressing very well: it has been fuelled today and it will arrive next week in the UCIF after final mechanical and electrical checks. The launcher is still in storage in the same building as Fregat. Its preparation for the launch will start only next week
Preparations are on-going for the filling of FM 5 and FM 8 spacecraft with oxidiser due to start on June 20: MMH drums and equipment are removed and decontaminated. Oxidiser drums have been brought inside the HPF (Hazardous Preparation Facility) clean room.
Thermal and mechanical work is being completed inside the UCIF clean room on the FM 6 and FM 7 spacecraft, with especially final mass balance on FM 6. Verification of the electrical interfaces on the launch pad is still going on.
18 June (Sunday)
First tour outside Baikonur to the recreational area of SBIK, the organisation responsible for the Energia facilities where our spacecraft are prepared for the launch. This area is located 45 km away from Baikonur. It is in an artificial oasis in the middle of the steppe along the Syr-Daria River, which was created 20 years ago by the Russian workers from SBIK. It was extremely appreciated, especially when the outside temperature is 37 degrees.
In the Russian way, with little things, they have done something quite nice: with elements (tanks) of the old N1 rockets, they built houses and dachas, while with other structural elements of the rockets, they provided all facilities for the lake and the swimming pool!
There was a delicious barbecue with chaslik (local traditional brochettes), beer and vodka.. . and many other things. Also, a lot of activities: swimming in the lake or in the Syr-Daria river; ball games; walking; Russian sauna (in old tradition with wood fire and massage with wild bush branches) and siesta... for those who have not recovered from the barbecue.
Important day for the telecom links! The link between the spacecraft simulator on the top of the launch pad tower and the bunker, using the Overall Check-Out Equipment (OCOE) via the Check-Out Terminal Equipment (COTE) in the catacombs, has been set-up. The spacecraft simulator is able to receive commands and send data to the OCOE. But further checks and validation are necessary to declare the links fully operational.
This was a rather exciting day, especially with the installation of the simulator and the amplifiers on top of the launch pad at a height of about 40 metres above ground level. The lift and the platforms are quite narrow which made the installation work quite tricky...to say the least ....
People with a tendency to vertigo should avoid it. The view of the surroundings (steppes and launch complex) is quite breathtaking but no pictures were allowed, except for our equipment!
Meanwhile, the second spacecraft of the FM 5-FM 8 pair has been filled with MMH (monomethylhydrazine).
A visit to the MIK40 building was organised for some of us. The building is located near the launch pad (about 40 km from the Energia building we are using). It is the final integration and assembly building for the Soyuz launcher and its Fregat upper stage. Our launcher is in storage in the building, waiting for the beginning of the launch activities, which are due to start on 27 June.
The Fregat upper stage is currently undergoing mechanical and electrical verification, before its filling and its delivery by train to the UCIF clean room next week where it will be assembled with the two stacked Cluster spacecraft.
Installation of thermal blankets has been completed for FM 6 and FM 7 inside the UCIF clean room.
FM 8 spacecraft has been filled with MMH this morning.
Mechanical and thermal activities have been carried out, including the re-installation of a transponder on FM 7, the removal of the last 'red rag' items and the installation of the last thermal blankets.
Meanwhile on the launch pad, all umbilicals, i.e. links between the launch mast and the underground catacombs, are installed and validated. These comprise the umbilical for purging, the ground harness for COTE (Check-Out Terminal Equipment), and the ground harness between COTE and OCOE (Overall Check-Out Equipment) from the catacombs to the (customer) bunker.
Thermal and mechanical activities are continuing in the UCIF on FM 6 and FM 7. This is done in close co-operation with Starsem as we are now in the so-called Combined Operation Phase. Any activity there needs the approval and the presence of the on-site safety/security officer as both spacecraft are fuelled.
Thermal blankets have been installed around the main engine of FM 6, on some experiments and on the lower and upper platforms. The batteries (5) have also been installed and the FM 6 spacecraft has been successfully switched on to verify the electrical connection.
The FM 5 and FM 8 spacecraft are being pressurised with helium in view of the filling due to start tomorrow.
The rocket fairing has arrived in the Energia building. It has been transported next to the UCIF clean room, which it will enter in a few days after being cleaned.
The Payload Processing Facility (PPF) clean room is going to be closed for Cluster spacecraft related activities. The last satellite, which needed activities in this room, FM 5 is ready. It has been equipped with the gas boosters, which arrived the day before. It was then transferred to the HPF clean room where it joined FM 8 for the preparation of the propellant filling operations, which will be conducted in parallel on the 2 satellites as it was done for FM 6 and FM 7.
FM 6 and FM 7, already full of propellant, have been in the UCIF clean room since the beginning of the week. They will be stacked together beginning of next week.
One of the largest groups (19) of the ESA/Astrium team has arrived in Baikonur by Clintondale charter flight. On board, there was a very precious parcel containing the second and last batch of gas boosters for the FM 5 spacecraft.
When boarding in Moscow (at Sheremenievo 1 airport), we met the French photographer Brice Fleutriaux, leaving for Paris with a delegation of high ranking French diplomats, including the French ambassador in Russia. Brice was just released the day before, after an 8 month kidnapping in Chechnya by some rebels. Despite his long isolation period, he looks quite well and was quite interested to learn that ESA was working in Baikonur with the Russians for launching scientific satellites! He was a bit up in the clouds after having met the Russian president Putin!
Both fuelled spacecraft (FM 6 and FM 7) were transferred, one after the other, from the Hazardous Processing Facility (HPF) clean room to the UCIF clean room area using a special trolley.
Monday night, we get some exercise to get rid of our stress and try to practise our Russian!. There was a football game organised between the Cluster II team and SBIK (Russian company responsible for operating the Energia Facilities) which took place at 20:00.
The core of the Cluster II team was formed from the Astrium Propulsion Team (formerly known as MMS-UK). They were supported loudly by some ESA, Astrium Gmbh and Starsem players.
Before the game the referee's briefing took place (in Russian, but football is international!) and this was followed by the traditional handshakes by the teams. In the beginning the SBIK team started strongly and scored twice before the Cluster II team warmed up. Both teams were technically excellent but in the end the lack of replacement players (teams were allowed to exchange players on the field freely) started to wear the Cluster II team out and this caused some mistakes on their part.
Although the game was very physical, everything happened in good spirit and there were no injuries. The match ended with a final score of 6 - 4 for the SBIK team. Revenge next week, same day, and same time!
9 - 10 June
- Cluster FM 6 and FM 7 spacecraft are filling with MMH (monomethylhydrazine). Electrical validation in the Upper Composite Integration Facility (UCIF) is due to start as soon as FM 6 and FM 7 spacecraft are moved there next week.
- conditioning is still on-going in preparation for the first 2 sets of flight batteries to be mounted on FM 6 and FM 7 the week after.
- alignment activities are now completed for all spacecraft after the thruster alignment of FM 5.