Gaia launcher separation test
A test of the separation mechanism that will free Gaia from its launcher's upper stage being conducted at Astrium Toulouse. The Gaia Service Module (SVM) is suspended from an overhead crane with the Launch Vehicle Adapter (LVA) attached using a clamp band. Compressed gas is fed to the clamp band locking mechanism via a quick-opening valve. Gravity is used to effect the separation, with the springs that will be used during launch in place but locked so that they just touched the spacecraft's interface ring. As the LVA falls away from the SVM, it lands on a cushioned protector.