Entry 8: On the move again

Space head module in the crocodile

31 March 2010 – With only seven days to go before launch, CryoSat-2 encapsulated within the Dnepr launcher's space head module has been loaded back onto the 'crocodile' in readiness for transportation to the launch silo tomorrow.

The last launch vehicle electrical tests were completed yesterday and the green light was subsequently given to move the space head to the underground silo. In addition, the payload fairing, which is the very upper tip of the rocket, was prepared for transport.

The procedure for transport remains the same as before – the space head was first lifted onto a trolley to roll it up to the 'crocodile' and then loaded onto this specialised vehicle. The crocodile is a lorry with a container that can be positioned vertically and opens like 'jaws' to allow the space head to be loaded.

The operation of lifting the space head by crane and placing it in the crocodile went smoothly. Yuzhnoye, the Ukrainian company that developed the Dnepr launcher, is responsible for this procedure.

Space head being loaded onto the crocodile
Space head being loaded onto the crocodile

Team members from ESA and Astrium stood by as the jaws closed. All things being well, this will be the last time they see the space head as they are not allowed to witness the mating of the space head and fairing to the rest of the launcher – a reminder of the base's military background.

The crocodile will make its one-hour journey to the silo tomorrow. In parallel the launch campaign team will set up the ground support equipment in the bunker. This includes the network data interface unit, which provides a network link to ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), allowing ESOC to monitor the satellite from Germany.

Another sign of the launch campaign nearing completion: the Astrium team has already started to pack up their equipment and there is now a second space head module in the cleanroom that will be used shortly to encapsulate DLR's Tandem-X satellite.

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