Visiting the Diane Tracking Station
16 November 1999Whilst the preparation of XMM continues in the Ariane-5 Final Assembly building at the Kourou spaceport, a small group from the ESA XMM project team, led by Paolo Sartini from the ESA Kourou ground staff paid a visit to the Diane tracking station.
The Diane facility, together with ESA's Perth station in Australia, will be maintaining contact with the satellite throughout its mission.
During the first month after launch, the ESA station at Villafranca Spain will also be used to ensure uninterrupted coverage of critical operations.
Commands destined for the satellite and its science payload originating from Mission Operation Centre at ESOC in Darmstadt Germany are distributed on dedicated communication lines to Kourou or Perth.
These commands will be uplinked and telemetry from XMM, including its valuable science data will be received and sent back to the XMM mission control at ESOC.
The Diane station, with its 15-metre antenna, is situated approximately 2 km north of the Ariane 5 launch pad (ELA2). The facility was inaugurated by ESA in 1992 and has since contributed to many missions including Ulysses, ISO, Eureca, Hipparcos, Italsat-2 It is manned by a team of 6 to 7 people.
Marco Lanugara, responsible for the Diane station, explained its operation to the XMM visitors, who included project manager Robert Lainé, and ESA AOCS manager Anders Elfing. Marco Lanagura confirmed that the station staff is fully prepared for the task ahead.
Preparing to top-up
The spacecraft has been transferred to a vertical stand, situated inside the sump area, a safety measure in case of spillage during the loading of the hydrazine propellant.
XMM has been carefully levelled and the next step is the connection of the flex hoses for the fuelling operation.
On the right, XMM is seen in the middle of the sump with in the foreground the transfer tank containing the hydrazine propellant.
Whilst limited because of the preparation for the hydrazine loading, electrical checkout activities have continued. The spacecraft's Electrical Ground Support Equipment (EGSE) has been moved from the Final Assembly Building and installed in the so-called S1 building, situated at the Technical Centre of the European SpacePort, some 12 km from the forward zone and its launch pads.
It is from the S1 building that XMM will be monitored during the final run-up to the launch and from there that the satellite engineers will be liaising with the Launch Range manager Jean-Yves Trebaol and his staff in the Jupiter Mission Control Centre. The spacecraft was activated from the EGSE consoles in S1 on 10 November.
Ariane 504 is undergoing nominal verifications in the Launcher Integration Building (BIL), and is being prepared for its transfer on 19 November to the Final Assembly Building (BAF) situated less than a kilometre away. The launcher's fairing, under which XMM will be riding up into space is on its way to French Guiana on the MS Toucan and should arrive on site on 22-23 November.