6 - 8 August 2000
9 August 2000The fully integrated launcher has been installed onto the launch pad. The dress rehearsal of the countdown procedure for both the laucher and the Cluster spacecraft was successfully completed on 7 August.
The only major activities today were for the launcher, none for the spacecraft. Both spacecraft have been switched off and the batteries charged. The purging has also been checked.
The dress rehearsal of the countdown procedure for both the launcher and the Cluster pair was done successfully in real time here in Baikonur with the support of ESOC. Everything went smoothly and without problems. All procedures until lift-off were rehearsed in the following order:
- purging disconnection
- network verification
- Fregat I/F check
- TM switch ON
- S/C switching ON
- but not the critical steps i.e. S/C switching from external to internal power and umbilical drop-off
The launch team (ESA/Astrium) celebrated the successful completion of the dress rehearsal with a Russian banquet with the Director of Sciences R.M. Bonnet, the Cluster Project Manager John Ellwood and the Launch Campaign Director Gerard Melchior.
Following the successful completion of the Launch Readiness Review and of the Transfer Readiness Review on 5 August, the go-ahead for the final launch preparations was given by the Russian State Commission on the evening of the same day. Subsequently the Soyuz/Fregat launcher, to which the second pair of Cluster spacecraft was already integrated, was rolled out today to launch pad #6.
It was an early start for the whole team, we left the hotel at 06:30 for the launch pad to witness the roll-out of the Soyuz launcher. With its precious payload onboard, the launcher was moved from the MIK40 launcher assembly building to the launch pad. We were joined on the pad by a large group of Russians (workers and officials) who were not scared off by the early wake-up. The roll-out was carried out by train over a distance of about 500 m. The train also had a special wagon providing air-conditioning to the second Cluster pair inside the fairing.
Before arriving at the launch pad, the locomotive was removed. The launcher was then moved onto the launch pad on its transport wagon. Once carefully installed and blocked, the rocket was erected on its umbilical mast from horizontal to vertical position, this took exactly 6 minutes!
Next the two launch pad platform assemblies, which were opened like flower petals whilst the rocket was put in place, were brought from horizontal to vertical position and the umbilical mast was removed. This was again a very impressive and professional operation done by the Russians for the 1643 consecutive time!
The final electrical checks and battery charging activities on the Cluster spacecraft have already started.
Professor Roger M. Bonnet, who attended the roll-out, was very delighted and expressed his satisfaction on the job done so far.
To celebrate the end of the operations, at about 10:30, Loic Bourillet, our Launch Campaign Administrator raised the ESA flag on the launch pad!
Evening: Progress launch
In the middle of the night at 00:26 AM local time (18:26 UT), the most courageous team members took the chance to witness the Soyuz-U rocket launch of the unmanned Progress M1-3 cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS). The Progress was carrying fuel, supplies and equipment.
This is the first Progress cargo delivery ship sent to the International Space Station. Docking will occur two days after launch at 20:14 UTC on 8 August. With the successful result of this launch, everything is now green for the Cluster launch on 9 August at 11:13:35 UTC.
The launch was really fantastic as we were especially close to the Soyuz launch pad 5 (less than one kilometre): the brightness of the rocket illuminated the surroundings so much that for a few seconds it seemed like daylight (a bit yellowish!).