Entry 19: GOCE meets launcher Upper Stage

GOCE mated to the Breeze Upper Stage

6 March 2009: As the end of another busy week draws to a close, the slim five-metre long GOCE satellite has undergone its last major handling operation by being hoisted up and joined to the Breeze-KM Upper Stage of the Rockot launcher.

This significant milestone in the launch campaign follows a number of intricate tasks. On Monday 2 March, the spacecraft was transferred onto the adapter system and tension applied to the clamp band – a process that can take a couple of goes to get it right. However, after being left to stabilise overnight the tension was checked the following morning and found to be fine, so the team could move onto the next task in hand.

Transferring GOCE to the Upper Stage
Transferring GOCE to the Upper Stage

The next job was to inspect the spacecraft and remove all the so-called 'red-tag' items, which are things such as protection covers that must be removed before encapsulation. Needless to say, this means that multiple checks are performed by different people to ensure that everything has been removed.

In parallel, the fairing halves – that had been readied by Khrunichev over the last few days – were thoroughly inspected for cleanliness and found to be okay.

On Thursday, the spacecraft and adapter system were moved out of the cleanroom to the nearby airlock via the 'yellow trolley', which was hand-operated by Khrunichev staff. The spacecraft was then lifted and mated onto the Breeze Upper Stage. This was the last handling operation on the spacecraft.

GOCE gently joins the Upper Stage
GOCE gently joins the Upper Stage

This procedure went very well and the team was excited to see the Upper Composite taking shape - one more step closer to launch just ten days away. On the same day, the umbilical cables were connected and the spacecraft turned on to verify the connection with the Upper Stage - all was fine.

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