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December 15, 2015

The last three days have been a beehive of activity in Hall 101 as teams have come and gone to perform a multitude of operations to ensure that the SC and Breeze-M are healthy, verified and ready for upcoming operations.  The cumulation of all these operations will be an encapsulated SC/Breeze M thus transforming into our E9B AU (Ascent Unit)…aka the pointy piece (nose cone) of the launch vehicle.

December 15, 2015

There you have it….as Sunday 13 Dec draws to a close, so does Day 1 of Joint Operations for the E9B launch campaign.  Our day started early, Airbus prepared and transferred the fully fueled SC from Hall 103A thru to Hall 101.  Once in H101 a plethora of operations took place prior to the actual lifting of the SC and mating with the KhSC Payload Adapter.  The remainder of the day has been spent connecting umbilicals, running a battery of electrical tests, and finalizing preparations prior to the lifting and mating with our Breeze-M.  It has been a day of multiple teams of specialists performing incredibly detail orientated work.  Tonight’s operations will close with another electrical test and review of test results. 

Tomorrow Monday 14 Dec will be Day 2 of Joint Operations and yes…you guessed it, another early kick-off for the day.

December 11, 2015

…and we are fueled! 2 days of MON loading, 1 day of Hall 103A reconfiguration, 2 days of MMH loading and we now have a fully fueled E9B SC!  Well done Airbus Stevenage CPS team and ground support crew!

Next up, Joint Operations!

December 9, 2015

Phase one of fueling is complete . Over the past two days, the Airbus CPS team from Stevenage along with a minimal ground support crew have successfully loaded the E9B SC with NTO. Next up is reconfiguration and preparation of Hall 103A so that we can start MMH loading later this week. 

December 7, 2015

Over the past week there has been much activity and a plethora of operations on our E9B launch campaign.  The SC has been in standalone operations running through a succession of tests with the results being checked, verified and checked again by the Airbus specialists in the Hall 103A on one side of the building.  KhSC is meanwhile on the other side of the building in Hall 101 hard at work ensuring that the Breeze M is on point with its series of tests, verifications and checks.  KhSC specialist teams are also diligently working on the Payload Adapter which now stands ready for Joint Operations, and finalizing the Payload Fairing operations.  The closing out and completion of these operations means collectively we are all moving closer to Joint Operations.

December 7, 2015

Full steam ahead!  Our propellants and gases finally arrived at 92A50 via train in the still of a clear, crisp winter’s night! Due to the hazardous nature of transferring the propellants/gases from the train via forklift, thru 3 different processing halls to reach the conditioning rooms, there was a small and concise welcoming team who ensured that the transfer went off without a hitch.  Flawless job team!

December 7, 2015

Thanksgiving...traditionally and historically, an American holiday spent with family, friends, and loved ones giving Thanks for all that one has been blessed with in life no matter how big or small it may be.

The ILS team took Thanksgiving to another level and introduced this quintessential American holiday to our fellow colleagues and team members (Russian, French, German, Australian, Swedish and the like) currently working on the E9B and AMU-1 launch campaigns. We had a few (100) of our closest friends over for dinner at the Polyot Hotel.

While it wasn’t typically how we celebrate in America (we continue to keep operations for the campaign moving forward and on schedule) we found and made the time to share a lavish meal together with all the trimmings and even went the extra mile to explain what the holiday was about to team members experiencing this American Holiday for the first time…EVER.

While the main dishes of the meal (turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, salads, apple pie) were prepared and cooked by our magnificent kitchen team, many of the fundamental side dishes such as green bean casserole, stuffing, corn bread, cranberry sauce and the all American Pumpkin Pie were lovingly created by our in-house nurse.

Everybody went in for seconds, some for thirds but nobody left the tables wanting for more. As tradition dictates, the left overs were devoured by many team members over the following few days.

Thanksgiving! Not only is it a great time to think about and be Thankful for all that we have, it’s a phenomenal team building exercise to boot!

November 24, 2015

The Team’s all here! After a few fits and starts to their day of travel from Moscow to Baikonur (traffic can be most convoluted in Moscow), our weary colleagues finally arrived at Area 95 to enthusiastic greetings from their fellow mission team members.   After a prompt check-in and swiftly dropping off bags in their hotel rooms, team members sat down to share a meal together, some catching up with friends from previous missions of years gone by and others being introduced for the first time.  No matter what way you look at it, sharing a meal is a wonderful way to bring people together!

November 24, 2015

Starts to campaigns are always a flurry of activity from getting acquainted to the hotels, figuring out the transportation to and from 92A50, overcoming jet-lag due to time zone changes and making sure that we are all on-point for the major milestones that occur soon after our arrival.  Our initial operation is a fitcheck that occurs between the SCM’s SC and KhSC Adapter System before the hardware and teams continue with respective stand-alone operations in Hall 101 and H103A.

Saturday 21 Nov 15, was another early start.  The Airbus team and supporting personnel headed to 92A50 to prepare for the E9B fitcheck.  To have a fitcheck, one has to have a SC available and prepared for the joint operation. To accomplish this, the Airbus team worked with a resolute synchronicity (learned from years of working together) to perform multiple operations to have the SC ready and waiting to start four hours early!  In the world that we work in, the Airbus teams’ accomplishment is nothing short of phenomenal!

KhSC and RUAG who provide and work on the Adapter System were on point with their hardware preparations and readiness as we received a resounding “da” ("Yes" in Russian) when asked during our daily meeting if they could start the fitcheck operation early.

After a pre-task briefing to introduce the teams, assigned team leaders and to ensure that all personnel actually involved in the operations were on the same page, the fitcheck was performed like clockwork. Meticulous attention to detail, personnel available at the right times for quality checks/verifications, ensured that the E9B fitcheck was a resounding success!

The final operation of the day performed after the fitcheck and demating of hardware was to transfer the SC from H101 to H103 in preparation for stand-alone operations.  Final operation completed smoothly and efficientlysmiley

November 22, 2015

Baikonur….we have an E9B SC!  SC arrival is a momentous launch campaign milestone, one that truly gets our launch campaign revved up and into full swing.

Per normal process, the teams held our off-load meeting two days prior to SC arrival to ensure that all personnel had a clear vision of how our operations would run on the day.  The only thing left to chance was the weather which as we all know is beyond our control.  With Baikonur now in the winter season, many on the team would have put their thoughts out to the universe for off-load day weather to be calm, sunny, cold but not arctic, no wind and definitely no rain.

The stars aligned and Mother Nature was on point! While we awoke to a rather grey, dreary, slightly damp day (it has been raining every day for the last week) and cloudy day, by the time we arrived at Yubileiny Airfield, the team were treated to perfect off-load weather.  It was rather balmy with +2°C - +4°C (28° – 38°F), sun peeking out from the clouds, no wind and no rain.

Typically, we have an early start to the day, but due to late confirmation of the flight manifest, the team had to adapt and overcome.  We did so with aplomb, the team off-loaded the SC and multiple pieces of GSE (ground support equipment) with precision timing, efficiency, stellar communications and a fastidiousness of multiple operations that has taken years of working together to perfect. It was like watching a finally tuned orchestra performing on opening night.

The sun did disappear over the horizon, the lights on the airfield lit up on and shone down on the railroad track/work area, the miner headlights were donned for the precise lightening needs where the flood lights didn’t reach, the hats, gloves, scarfs put on to keep the team warm and remain working at a good clip to close out the final operations. You have a major sense of accomplishment when the train does it “toot-toot” and finally starts pulling away towards 92A50.

All this effort, team work (including a five hour train journey), we were rewarded with the fact/knowledge that the E9B SC and GSE are now safe and sound in H101 and respective offices, control rooms at the 92A50 processing facility.

November 21, 2015

A light dusting of snow blanketed the city of Moscow as the team kicked off our journey to Baikonur for the E9B launch campaign.  Luggage stowed, the team clambered aboard our bus and headed to Vnukovo Airport to catch our charter.

A short three hour and half flight later, a vastly different environment greeted the team.  Team members donned hats, coats, scarfs and gloves as we exited the plane to be welcomed by a cold blustery wind, grey overcast skies and a bleak landscape speckled with mud pools caused by numerous days of rain.  The bus ride to Area 95 was mercifully short and sweet.  The hotel lights beaming out across the Steppes of Kazakhstan, growing ever larger on the horizon provided a guiding light welcoming the weary travelers in from the cold to what will be our home for the duration of the E9B launch campaign.

After getting settled into our respective hotels, the team has hit the ground running and are making quick work of laying the foundation for our next major mission milestone - SC off-load.  Communication has been very transparent between the multicultural teams (French, Russian, American) ensuring that everyone has a comprehensive grasp  of our operations schedule in an effort to have a seamless, efficient and productive off-load and ultimately and industrious launch campaign.A light dusting of snow blanketed the city of Moscow as the team kicked off our journey to Baikonur for the E9B launch campaign.  Luggage stowed, the team clambered aboard our bus and headed to Vnukovo Airport to catch our charter.

November 17, 2015

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