XMM team savours the flavour of Kourou
11 May 1999With the spacecraft's launch on Ariane-5 only just over half a year away, a delegation from the XMM team has just returned from a visit to Kourou. XMM is presently undergoing last verification tests at ESTEC and the next milestone towards launch - the mating of its two halves - will take place on 26 May.
The visit, from 30 April to 7 May, was led by ESA's XMM project manager Robert Laini. He was accompanied by several members of his team : Martin Ditter (Project Controller), Nicole Lamoureux (Project secretary), Jan van Doorer (Product Assurance), Giorgio Bagnasco (Instruments engineer), Daniel de Chambure and Philippe Kletzkine (Assembly, Integration and Verification); engineers from XMM prime contractor DaimlerChrysler Dornier team, led by their Programme Manager Uwe Minne, and several members of ESA management.
The objective of the trip was essentially to check all aspects of the satellite preparation that will precede the launch. The XMM spacecraft is due to leave ESTEC for the European Spaceport around mid September. The campaign will begin at the end of September and will last 12 weeks. The spacecraft preparation will entirely take place in the Ariane-5 Final Assembly Building (BAF). XMM will be mated with the Ariane-5 vehicle 10 days before launch.
Subjects examined with Arianespace covered the entire campaign arrangements including the paramount safety aspects when the spacecraft is fuelled and when the launcher is in the building. Discussions also focused on the operations, such as the installation of XMM's very large sunshield, when the spacecraft is positioned at the summit of the launcher.
Technical questions were not the sole issues of concern - there are also all the logistics of the long campaign in Kourou (offices and hotel accommodation, car rentals etc.) for the 40 people (10 from ESA and 30 from Dornier and other subcontractors) who will be present for the campaign. Also examined were the communications facilities, ensuring permanent communications links with the XMM teams back in Europe, not only at ESTEC but also at ESOC (Darmstadt, Germany) from where the satellite will be controlled once it has been placed in orbit, and at Dornier's homebase in Friedrichshafen. All the visitors came back impressed by the existing infrastructure in Kourou, made available by Arianespace to all its clients.
The visit was at a very good time: XMM project members were pleased to see the next Ariane-4 being prepared in its assembly dock for its forthcoming V118 flight, and even more thrilled to witness the transfer of the Ariane 504 and to see it at close quarters in the Final Assembly Building. The Ariane 504 mission is due to lift off in July.
Well satisfied professionally, the group also indulged in some sight-seeing. During their free time, they were able to appreciate many aspects of French Guiana including its fauna - sea turtles off Devil's Island, snakes swimming in the Kourou river and the beautiful silvery blue 'Morpho' butterflies - and of course the tropical fruit that are currently perfuming the Project office!