All systems go for launch
ESA’s Artemis telecommunications satellite chalked up another milestone this week in its preparations for launch in July. The 3,100 kg spacecraft was declared to be in A1 condition after the last in a year- long schedule of tests, checks, simulations and validations was successfully completed.
ESA gave the final ‘all clear’ for launch after a day-long, global teleconference, held appropriately via satellite between three countries.
ESA directors at the headquarters in Paris linked up with the Artemis technical team at ESTEC in the Netherlands and engineers at the launch site in Kourou, French Guiana.
“This was the final flight acceptance review before launch,” said Artemis Project Manager, Gotthard Oppenhauser. “It is at this point that we go through a standard agenda checking for non-compliances, waivers and constraints that could have an effect on the launch or subsequent operation of the satellite.
“The technical review uncovered nothing that would prevent a launch on 12 July 2001. This was the final decision process before the propellant is loaded – from here on is the point of no return,” he added.
Fuelling of the 44 kg of Xenon propellant, which will be used for the spacecraft's ion propulsion system has already taken place but loading of the remaining 1519kg of liquid propellant is one of the most hazardous pre-launch tasks and is therefore carried out at the latest opportunity.
During the loading operation, blast shields are used within a dedicated building, guards and road barriers keep traffic away from the area, and loading personnel, wearing special protective suits, are kept under a watchful eye by medical teams and fire officers.
Artemis will be moved out to the launch pad about eight days prior to launch and at this time it will be handed over to Arianespace for positioning under the launcher fairing of the Ariane 5 launcher.
Further checks and monitoring of its status will continue right up to the start of the final countdown just a couple of days before lift-off.