XMM arrives in French Guiana
27 September 1999As scheduled, the Arianespace MN Toucan berthed at Kourou's Pariacabo harbour on the afternoon of 23 September after a ten-day crossing from Europe. A welcoming party was present as the ship lowered its rear access ramp, revealing its full load: the XMM giant container and eight others with various Ariane-4 and Ariane-5 rocket stages.
On the quayside were Arianespace Mission Director for the XMM launch, Philippe Rolland; Jean-Yves Tribaol, the Launch Range Manager for the XMM flight from the French Space Agency (CNES); and Robert Laini and Uwe Minne, XMM Project Managers respectively from ESA and prime-contractor Dornier. They were glad also to see that their two colleagues accompanying the spacecraft appeared to have survived their transatlantic trip!
The Toucan first unloaded its hazardous items, such as propellant-filled rocket stages, and the XMM trailer was only rolled out at the next high tide the following morning. Local television and press media were there to cover the event.
The XMM container then led an exceptional convoy of nine vehicles. Escorted by police, it left through the small harbour's industrial estate, rejoining the 'Space Road' which first passes the technical complex of the Guiana Space Centre (where the Jupiter Mission Control is situated) before reaching the launch complex itself a further 13 kilometres along the coast road.
Upon entering the forward zone of the European spaceport, XMM headed for the largest building, the Ariane-5 Final Assembly Building (BAF). It is an impressive cathedral-like structure, 90m tall, fully air-conditioned with a volume of 123 000 cubic metres! It is from the BAF that the Ariane- launch vehicles, ready for lift-off, are taken to their launch site.
The BAF also accommodates clean rooms where exceptionally sized satellites can be prepared for launch. The XMM trailer reversed into the building's air lock, the protective tarpaulin was removed and an over-head gantry crane transferred the long container.
The XMM launch campaign starts practically immediately as much work remains before the launch in December. First activities will see the unloading of mechanical and electrical ground support equipment, and removal of the spacecraft from its container. Numerous system checks on the satellite will take place before fuelling in mid-November.
Eight members of the ESA team and 15 colleagues from Dornier have already arrived for the long campaign in French Guiana. Others are arriving soon. It is all too clear: with their spacecraft now only 5 km away from its launch site, the mood is good and everyone is highly motivated.