The final steps in preparing for the launch of ESA's ice mission CryoSat have just been taken, confirming that the launch will take place on Saturday.
The launch marks two firsts for ESA; CryoSat is the first mission to be launched in the Earth Explorer family and it will be the first time that ESA has launched on Rockot, a Russian SS-19 two-stage intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) plus a Breeze-KM third stage to place the satellite into orbit.
The launch dress rehearsal took place on Wednesday where the launch team at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia ran a simulated countdown sequence in conjunction with the flight control team at ESA's Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.
The exercise ran very smoothly, assuring the teams that everything is in place for the actual launch. Guy Ratier, ESA CryoSat Project Manager stated, "Thanks to the excellent job performed by the Eurockot , Khrunichev, Astrium and ESA teams, the achievement of this last milestone paves the way towards a successful launch."
Following the dress rehearsal, on Wednesday evening, a formal review took place with the so called “State Commission”, where representatives of the various organisations involved were asked to report on the status of their activities. This involved Eurockot and Khrunichev for the launcher, ESA for the CryoSat satellite, the Russian Space Forces for the fuelling operations, the weather forecast, the Ground Stations, as well as some other parties such as the Search and Rescue team. The Commission concluded on the readiness of the launcher and gave authorisation to proceed with the final fuelling operations. The CryoSat launch is therefore confirmed for 8 October 2005 at 17:02 CEST.
The ease with which the CryoSat launch campaign has so far been carried out also serves as a test bed for the following Earth Explorer missions GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer) and SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity), which also be launched on Rockot from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in 2006 and 2007 respectively.