CryoSat lifted on its slings

3 to 5 September 2005

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ESA / Applications / Observing the Earth / CryoSat

Continuing his CryoSat launch diary, ESA Launcher Interface Engineer Kurt Büchler details the spacecraft's entry into its assigned clean room at Plesetsk Cosmodrome. Accessible only by airlocks, this chamber has its temperature, humidity and dust levels all controlled within strict limits to protect delicate satellite mechanisms.

Saturday 3 September - CryoSat approaches the clean room

Today is Saturday, nevertheless this will be a working day. Due to the restrictions of a relatively small project - which CryoSat is in ESA - our manpower coverage is not such that we could afford working shifts with a second team. We have to economise resources. This then comes down to a working week of six days and a planned regular working day of ten hours - obviously not including the bus trip to the Cosmodrome.

If finally a daily programme can be completed before the planned end, we can close business for the day earlier. But this has to be true for each team member, because we have to ride all together in one bus.

Today is a beautiful day, clear blue sky, a bit of autumn hanging in the air. I only become aware of it during the trip. Anyway, the weather forecast for next week is not so promising.

CryoSat container in airlock
CryoSat container in airlock

First we have an internal meeting with Astrium, where the daily schedule is announced and agreed. Our first common meeting with all involved parties is always the daily planning meeting, with the attendance of Eurockot, Khrunichev and the military space forces.

Before it begins, I decide to have quick look in the clean room and possibly take some photos. It turns out this was a boo-boo, because later on my presence (without proper clean room gear!) is visible on the sensor print-outs.

View into the clean room
View into the clean room

I was not aware that as of this morning the hall has full clean room status with mandatory protective clothes. In the meeting to follow this is just one of the main topics: hand-over of the integration hall to ESA, of course with a proof of the required status achieved. I show up in the diagram which is presented later as a peak, fortunately only a smaller one among others (which are mainly related to activities of moving the satellite container in the adjacent hall). A little blush, and the issue is forgotten. We also now have the results of the shock measurements during the transport: all green.

Spectacular activities in the big general hall: our Rockot launcher is lifted with a big hoisting crane closer to the airlock door, therefore the CryoSat container has to be in front of the airlock already before. Alas, no photos of the Rockot operations are allowed.

The container open
The container open

During the day some major mechanical support equipment is moved into the clean room, and the CryoSat container at the end of the day is waiting in front of the big clean room door. The lid will be lifted on Monday, and then CryoSat will enter the clean room. Also the room where the most electrical ground equipment is located (called EGSE) and from where the satellite is monitored and controlled on ground during tests, is basically set up. This week the plan is fulfilled.

In the evening ESA has a dinner, the guests are colonels from the space forces, Khrunichev and Astrium colleagues, and our team. Many speeches express the best wishes for CryoSat.

CryoSat is lifted on slings
CryoSat is lifted on slings

Sunday 4 September – Day off!

Monday 5 September – CryoSat enters the clean room

The week starts with a milestone: CryoSat is supposed to enter the clean room today. The last item on Saturday had been the storage of the cleaned satellite container in the airlock, so that on Monday the condition for entering the clean room would be met.

Cyrille, our launch campaign manager - who has his birthday today, another one who spends his birthday here - is pleased, as indeed the environmental parameters in the clean room are correct, and the activities proceed according to schedule. Meanwhile we have about one hour of delay, because a small obstacle has come up: the crane needed to lift the container lid has only a limited action radius, smaller than expected. This is due to a possible interference with one fairing half of Rockot which is stored in the airlock. A technical discussion brings the solution, and the activities can continue. At the end of the day this hiatus is made up for.

CryoSat is secured on the multipurpose trolley
CryoSat is secured on the multipurpose trolley

First the container lid is lifted and the bottom together with CryoSat in its support frame is rolled (manually, by six people) into the clean room. There CryoSat is fixed onto four strong slings on the crane hook, and, when securely hanging there, unbolted from the transport frame. Now it is suspended on the slings only, and can be manoeuvred over to the multipurpose trolley. The satellite has to be turned - a piece of cake on the slings - in order to be bolted to the multipurpose trolley. After that the slings are removed.

Now the spacecraft container has fulfilled its duty, and can be rolled out. On the multipurpose trolley CryoSat is lifted into a nearly vertical position to give room for work around the satellite. This is an impressive sight. The last activity for today is the integration of the spacecraft battery. However, this is only the engineering model, not the real flight hardware, which is stored in the fridge. But functionally, they are identical.

The battery is needed to operate and test the satellite, which is planned for this week. With the trolley the satellite can be rotated about its principal axis as well, and CryoSat is positioned to have easy access to the battery location.

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