XMM ready to cross the Atlantic
2 September 1999After completing all its mechanical and electrical verifications, XMM is ready for shipping to its launch site in French Guiana. On 1 September ESA's giant X-ray observatory was packed in its special transport container and is now ready to leave the ESTEC integration facility in Noordwijk, Netherlands.
Transferring the spacecraft to its container was an exceptionally delicate operation. It was the first time that the 10 metre long spacecraft, weighing 3.6 tonnes had been lifted in a horizontal position. The day-long manoeuvre required the use of a complex hoisting device with dummy masses to align the crane hook, the centre of gravity of the hoisting device and the centre of gravity of the spacecraft on the same vertical line. It was an impressive sight!
Once suspended horizontally inside the container XMM was fitted to the supporting L-shaped adaptor, and the lid of the container was closed. The container was immediately purged again to preserve the cleanliness of the spacecraft. This hoisting manoeuvre will have to take place again upon arrival of the precious consignment in the Ariane 5 Final Assembly Building in Kourou.
XMM is due to leave ESTEC next week. The satellite container will be conveyed a short distance by road to the canal port of Katwijk and placed on a barge which will take it to Rotterdam. It will depart on the Arianspace vessel 'MN Toucan' around 13 September.
Meanwhile, a first consignment of XMM ground support and test equipment for the launch campaign has already arrived in French Guiana. Eight maritime containers disembarked at Kourou's Pariacabo harbour from the 'MN Toucan' on 23 August on its previous round-trip. The consignment also included the spacecraft's hydrazine propellant, and a structural and thermal model of the upper part of the spacecraft that is being donated to the Kourou Spaceport Museum.