Following the arrival of Anna and Ellen, our four Galileo FOC* satellites are now all in Kourou (French-Guyana), where an international team of OHB experts will be preparing them for their journey into space. The logistics of these activities have been planned right down to the very last detail. Each satellite will be undergoing extensive testing at the site. Our picture story of the launch campaign shows that things can get pretty hectic during the countdown and why a mosquito can rob you of your last nerve.
The satellites are loaded onto the Boeing 747 in Luxembourg. An OHB employee accompanies them.
Arrival in Cayenne, where the satellites are loaded onto a truck.
The satellites are transported by truck to Kourou with a police escort.
The containers are unloaded in the clean-room lock, where the Galileos must acclimatize for one or two days.
The satellites are then unpacked and undergo an inspection.
Dispenser fit check: This is to determine whether the satellite fits on the dispenser.
Next step: The flight software is uploaded.
This is followed by the short functional tests to retest all of the satellite functions. This is a very long and involved procedure taking two days in shifts.
Final check of certain satellite settings and final deactivation of the satellite. The satellite is completely deactivated for all other activities. It does not reactivate itself again until it is in orbit.
The following block is then performed on all four satellites:
Mechanical activities, e.g. installation of final connectors to activate various parts of the satellite.
The satellites are fueled with around 68 kilograms of hydrazine. Numerous safety precautions are taken as the propellant is highly toxic and explosive.
For example, the technicians handling the filling process must wear “space suits” and the surrounding terrain is cordoned off. So, it’s no joke if a mosquito happens to find its way into the space suit. This is precisely what happened during the first campaign to one technician, who then had to fight off the mosquito’s attacks for several hours. Puh …!
The satellite batteries are loaded.
Integration in the dispenser. This is preceded by step 1 of the launch readiness review (LRR) to determine whether all other activities (assembly of the launcher, etc.) are on schedule so that the satellites can be released for combined operations. This means that the once the satellite has been integrated in the dispenser (or, more precisely, the point in time from which the satellite is closer than 50 centimeters to the dispenser) responsibility is spread across various parties (Arianespace as well as OHB).
While all this is going on, the launcher is readied
The launcher is assembled in Kourou at the same time as the activities are being performed on the satellites. This is described in an interesting documentation on N24 which was produced during the launch before last.
The launcher components arrive at the port in Kourou.
The components are transported to the CSG in Kourou.
The boosters are mounted on the intended launching base elements (vertically) and transported to the BIL (Bâtiment d’Integration Lanceur or Launcher Integration Building)
The main stage (middle part of the launcher) is assembled and placed in an upright position in the BIL.
The upper stage is integrated.
The boosters and main stage are assembled on the launching base in the BIL.
Subsequently, the entire stack is loaded onto a type of truck (like a “clean room on wheels”) and transported to the hall with the launcher.
The launcher is already in an upright position on the launching base in this hall. It is likewise assembled on the launching base.
The stack is lifted by a crane to a height of around 45 meters and placed on top of the Ariane 5.
The upper stage of the launcher is now fueled and activated.
This is followed in the ensuing days by a number of tours of the building, in which some OHB employees have already been able to take part. A lift takes you twelve floors up to a platform adjacent to the fairing at a height of around 45 meters. There is also a very impressive access route from the launch pad past the engines, the booster and the main engines. During the last campaign, some OHB employees were given an opportunity of signing the Galileo logo.
Step 2 of the launch readiness review (LRR) is completed around one week before the launch date. This involves all relevant parties (OHB, ESA, CNES, Arianespace), who report on the status of the various elements (satellites, launcher, ground segment, etc.). Only if all elements are in full working order is the launcher released for transfer to the launch pad.
Around three days before the launch date, the launching base holding the finished Ariane 5 is moved to the launch pad. It is pulled by a truck (total weight of around 2,000 tons). This is all done very, very slowly. Spectators can view the procedure from a special platform.
The launcher is now at the launch pad. It is illuminated at night, turning into a very impressive giant.
Please also note our press releases on Galileo:
*The Full Operational Capability phase of the Galileo programme is managed and fully funded by the European Union. The Commission and ESA have signed a delegation agreement by which ESA acts as design and procurement agent on behalf of the Commission. The views expressed here can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union and/or ESA. “Galileo” is a trademark subject to OHIM application number 002742237 by EU and ESA.