#2: Fasten your belts!
15 October 2015During the first week of activities at Kourou, the LISA Pathfinder team have focused on setting up the hardware they need for the launch campaign.
Almost as soon as the spacecraft and equipment arrived at the Centre Spatial Guyanais last Thursday, members of the team here were busy unpacking it. The electrical and mechanical ground segment equipment was re-integrated and checked, the IT infrastructure – computers, networks, printers, et cetera – was laid down, the LISA Pathfinder spacecraft was taken out of its container and installed onto its ground-support stand, and the container itself was readied for transport back to Europe.
|Opening the LISA Pathfinder transport container. Credit: ESA-CNES-Arianespace / Optique Vidéo du CSG - G. Barbaste
All of this is easier said than done, but thanks to the detailed pre-campaign preparations, there were only a few changes to the work plan. A hiccup in the customs procedure meant that the arrival of all the ESA project team's IT equipment was delayed a few days, but this did not deter our IT team who managed, with a combination of initiative and improvisation, to get us up-and-running from day one. Removing the spacecraft from the container and placing it on its ground-support stand had to be re-planned, resulting in a bit of a sliding puzzle of adaptors, cranes, holding frames, interface rings, stands and – of course – one spacecraft; and yet the puzzle was solved in no time.
|Manoeuvring LISA Pathfinder to attach it to the ground support stand. Credit: ESA-CNES-Arianespace / Optique Vidéo du CSG - G. Barbaste
Yesterday, with LISA Pathfinder vertically positioned on its stand, the ground clamp-band between the propulsion and the science modules was replaced by the flight clamp-band. The clamp-band is a belt that is tightened around two metal rings: one on the propulsion module and one on the science module. During launch, the belt holds both modules together, and once the spacecraft has reached its operational orbit around L1 – about fifty days after launch – the belt is released letting the modules fly free. The electrical harnesses of the two modules were joined through the umbilical connectors, an operation requiring finesse in the adjustment that is carried out by several engineers, on top of special mobile access platforms ('cherry pickers'), who have to endure difficult access between the two spacecraft modules.
|Replacing the ground clamp-band between the propulsion and the science modules by the flight clamp-band. Credit: ESA - Federico Bertini
During all of this, the most crucial interface that needs to match is that between the various teams – this is the key to success. To set up the IT infrastructure, the ground segment equipment, and LISA Pathfinder's belt and connectors, involved teams from CNES, Arianespace, RUAG Sweden (for the clamp-band and umbilicals), Airbus Defence and Space, and ESA. All teams have 'clicked' together and have done a timely and excellent job. We are off to a good start!
César García Marirrodriga
15 October 2015
Kourou, French Guiana