The XMM mirror modules have arrived in Noordwijk
14 December 1998After a four-hour road journey from Lihge in Belgium, the three flight model mirror modules, the most powerful X-ray optics in the world, have arrived today at ESTEC, ESA's technical centre in Noordwijk, The Netherlands. It was the last road journey for the 'eyes' of ESA's X-ray space observatory. Early next year, the three mirror modules will be assembled on the spacecraft, ready for launch in January 2000.
The transfer was a very special occasion for the XMM team, to the extent that, for the first time, the project manager himself, Robert Laini, travelled in one of the three semi-articulated lorries of the convoy. The transfer was also supervised and accompanied by representatives of Media Lario in Como Italy, where the mirrors had been manufactured and Dornier Satelliten Systeme, the prime contractor for the XMM programme.
For the past two and half years, each module had been tested and calibrated, not only at the Centre Spatial de Lihge, but at the Panter facility in Munich and at Dornier in Ottobrun Germany. So the teams were already well versed in road transfer procedures. The mirrors were transported in steel containers, carefully suspended to prevent any shocks, in a pure nitrogen atmosphere at a steady temperature. But as the lorries drove across northwestern Belgium towards Holland, all concerned were acutely aware that this precious consignement had to arrive safely.
There were no problems. At the end of the day, the three modules were being unloaded in the clean-room areas at ESTEC. An engineer from Media-Lario remarked : 'our babies are home'. Project scientist Fred Jansen, also present, commentated the occasion for the camera crew. The XMM mirrors arriving at ESTEC made an early Christmas present for the team. More