Venus Express launch dress rehearsal
The launch dress rehearsal for ESA's Venus Express mission took place succesfully at Baikonur Cosmodrome earlier today.
At 04:00 CET this morning, control of the Venus Express spacecraft was handed to the 'countdown' team for the rehearsal.
The simulated lift-off time was set to 18:34 local time (13:34 CET), and the spacecraft preparation activities commenced right away with the confirmation of the spacecraft configuration as achieved during yesterday's pre-launch sequence.
After this check, the final countdown sequence (launch sequence) was started and the spacecraft was fully configured for launch, but still fed by ground power, at around 12:30 (07:30 CET).
In parallel with the spacecraft activities, preparations of the Fregat upper stage and the network countdown at ESOC were also progressing according to the nominal timeline.
Up to about 17:30 (12:30 CET), i.e. one hour from simulated lift-off, spacecraft activities were confined to performing routine telemetry checks. The fuelling of the launcher, which normally takes place in this time period, was not carried out as part of this dress rehearsal.
With the 'virtual fuelling' of the launcher being completed, spacecraft activities resumed, and eventually the switch to on-board power was confirmed at 18:24 (13:24 CET), just 10 minutes away from the simulated launch time.
The simulated launch time of 18:34 (12:34) was reached with the spacecraft fully ready for lift-off with all systems running on on-board power.
The rehearsal at this point continued with a simulated 'launch abort' in which the team practiced the scenario of a late abort of the sequence, called for by either the launcher or the spacecraft.
This is where the spacecraft has to be returned to external power supply and brought back into a safe configuration before a further attempt for launch can be started.
After completion of all activities the countdown team handed over control of the spacecraft back to the 'baby-sitting' team, who will take care of it until the start of the final countdown activities tomorrow.