Entry 6: Launch team reaches full strength
18 August 2008 – Seven additional people have arrived at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome completing the 29-strong GOCE launch campaign team. With 19 days to go before launch (L-19) the campaign continues to progress well with the gas-loading activities finalised and the solar-array inspection almost done.
Over the last few days, activities have focussed on loading the satellite with nitrogen following the gas-leak checks last week and a full inspection of the solar array. Once in orbit, the same side of the GOCE satellite always faces the Sun. This side carries four body-mounted and two wing-mounted solar panels capable of tolerating temperatures as high as 140ºC and as low as –160ºC. Ensuring that the solar panels are in perfect condition is an important step in the launch campaign.
On a personal note, it was Irren Tsu-Silva's birthday on Friday. Irren is the ESA secretary for the GOCE Project. The team presented her with a big bunch of red roses and the Russian team also gave her flowers selected from those blooming around the launch facilities.
The picture (below) shows the Commander General Nickolai Bikus of the Plesetsk Cosmodrome (left) and Jürgen Schmid ESA's GOCE Launch Campaign Manager enjoying a beer together. Jürgen has been providing the news updates for the GOCE launch diary.