Entry 5: GOCE checked for gas leaks
13 August 2008 – With just 24 days to go before lift-off (L-24), the launch campaign continues to run smoothly. The team has used free time to enjoy a game of football and a drink together.
Over the last few days one of the main activities has been to check that the satellite is leak proof. In order to carry out these tests the spacecraft needs to be pressurised with helium and xenon gas. In fact, the spacecraft had been loaded with xenon a year ago, but prior to these tests the satellite nitrogen system was pressurised with helium. GOCE was placed in its container for 24 hours to check and see if any of the gases could be detected in the air inside the container. Samples to check for xenon have been taken and will be analysed by means of gas spectronomy at the Physical Chemistry and Institute in Moscow. The helium-gas concentration was checked in Plesetsk and found to be within limits.
The next step is to move the satellite from the transport container and position it on the multipurpose trolley again to vent the helium and carry out the final loading of nitrogen. After that, there will be a detailed inspection of the solar array, which will be performed by an expert from EADS Astrium Germany. This activity will run in parallel to the first electrical tests on the satellite.
The launch campaign doesn't mean all work and no play though. At the weekend there was a football match between the GOCE team (pictured in the dark blue/yellow strip) and Russian military (light blue/white strip). Lead by the Commander of the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, the Russians won outright scoring 12 goals against the GOCE team's 2 goals. Drinks followed as well as a decision to make time for some more sports events in the coming weeks!