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June 5, 2016

Spectacular sunrise, warm temperatures, slight breeze provided an outstanding start to the day as members of our team along with a multitude of Russian colleagues spanning multiple organizations (it takes a village to launch a rocket) watched in animated anticipation, awe and with a great deal of pride as the Intelsat 31 SC cocooned in the mighty Proton Rocket rolled out from the Breeze-M fueling station at 0630 today bound for Launch Pad 24.

Upon arrival at LP24 the pad team experts sprang into action with their respective tasks to ensure that our ILV went from horizontal to vertical and was ready for upcoming operations; the SSL electrical team performed their required tests with outright synchronicity.

Our team closes out our day with Intelsat 31 standing tall and proud!

June 3, 2016

The mission team’s hard-work is paying off!  This morning at 0830 the ILV majestically rolled out of H111 to the Breeze-M fueling station for two days of fueling.  Because of the nature of the fueling operations, Building 92A-50 is cleared of all nonessential personnel. So, with the team working remotely from the hotels, and Mother Nature providing delightful summer weather, most of the team will take the opportunity to see Baikonur town or rest up in preparation for our launch….TGIF!

May 30, 2016

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.  We now have the Ascent Unit being prepared for transfer to H111 where it will be integrated with the rest of the launch vehicle (rocket).  In addition, the teams are also well under way in preparing for joint operations at the launch pad.

May 30, 2016

There you have it….as Friday 27 May draws to a close, so does Day 1 of Joint Operations for the Intelsat 31 launch campaign.  Preparation for Day 1 of Joint Operations started the night before as the SSL mechanical team prepared and transferred the Intelsat 31 SC into H101 along with the necessary equipment to perform our operations seamlessly.

The SSL electrical team were first in the door at o’dark thirty to perform joint electrical checks with the BM.  Following not far behind were the SSL mechanical team on point and motivated to get started.  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 was spent 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.

Saturday 28 May was Day 2 of Joint Operations and yes…you guessed it, another early kick-off for the day. Day 2 culminated in the AU (Ascent Unit) being titled into the horizontal position ready for Day 3 of joint operations where it will be encapsulated in the PLF (Payload Fairing) aka the top of the rocket.

May 19, 2016

Smiles on children’s faces….Priceless!

 On Tuesday 17 May 2016, a select team of mission personnel, made the traditional Crispin Mendoza from SSL journey to the children’s ward of the Baikonur Hospital to present the children with toys, clothing and monetary donations.  Even though the circumstances are not always the brightest, the amount of joy, love and laughter generated from the children spoke volumes.  The gratitude from hospital staff and mother’s, was incalculable.  Thank you Crispin for allowing us to be a part of your generosity.


May 16, 2016

…Intelsat 31 SC fully fueled!  Friday 13 May was lucky for our team and was a great way to close out the “standard work week” smiley  Well done to the SSL Propulsion team and ground support crew!  Decontamination operations will take place over the rest of the weekend.

As tradition goes after successfully fueling a SC, SSL put on a wonderful feast with a Post Fueling BBQ.  It’s a fabulous way to recognize a job well done to the fueling team.  This bbq was all the more poignant as our KhSC Propulsion support colleagues and Alexey Popov were able to attend.  It was great to see the entire crew together outside of working operations…..very rarely does this happen.

Great time had by all!  Next campaign milestone……. Joint Operations

May 11, 2016

Phase one of fueling is completesmiley  Stellar performance by the SSL Propulsion team along with minimal ground support crew as we have successfully loaded the Intelsat 31 with NTO.   Next up is reconfiguration and preparation of H103A so that we can perform MMH loading.

May 11, 2016

Sunday 8 May, was not only Mother’s Day but also a mammoth milestone as the team prepared for and successfully completed our Intelsat 31 fitcheck. 

The team was up and rolling with an early start to the day for our fitcheck.  The SC had been put through numerous stand-alone testing operations in Hall 103A for readiness, while in Hall 101, the PLA (Payload Adapter) hardware had also run the gauntlet of tests performed by our KhSC specialists.

With a resolute synchronicity (learned thru years of working together) our culturally diverse team (from Russia, America and Sweden) merged in H103A to perform our fitcheck.  As with every operation, our pre-task briefing was performed to introduce the teams with associated team leads, reiterate the necessary safety requirements and to ensure that all personnel involved in the operations were on the same page. Meticulous attention to detail, specialty personnel available at for quality checks/verifications, all ensured that the Intelsat 31 fitcheck was a resounding success!

The final operations of the day were to transfer the PLA and support stand back to H101 to await the start of joint operations, and the SC onto the fueling dolly in preparation for SC fueling.  Operation completed…seamlessly!

May 6, 2016

Our team is full steam ahead in our campaign preparations. Both the SC and LV have been undergoing the gauntlet of tests necessary for a healthy SC and LV also known as stand-alone operations.

Next up for the team is our Intelsat 31 fitcheck scheduled for Sunday….also an important day for another reason…as it’s Mother’s Day around the world.

Early Happy Mother’s Day wishes to all the women around the globe.

May 3, 2016

Good day here at launch campaign….after much anticipation and daily updates on its journey, our ISDLA-2 launch vehicle has arrived safe and sound at 92A50 and it’s 12 railcars are now being off-loaded into H111 for processing.

May 3, 2016

It is with a certain catch in our throats that the Intelsat 31 mission team bid a heartfelt and fond farewell to our long standing friend, mentor, colleague Mr. Alexey Popov.

For 43 years, Alexey Popov has been an unwavering beacon here at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, with a team of about 300 personnel under his watchful eye. Many of his team work side-by-side with us to ensure our respective launch campaigns are done efficiently, cohesively, within our required safety rules and regulations and have, on occasion, overcome many challenges to achieve successful launches for our customers.

He is the glue that has help meld many nations of people, to work together, to grow and cultivate a seamless operation, all the while abiding by each countries respective governmental requirements.

The man, the myth, the legend, Mr. Alexey Popov has retired but his legacy will live on in the hearts of those who have had the privilege to work with him. We wish him Godspeed on his new adventure and may luck run with him as he heads off into the great unknown!

May 1, 2016

With the initial flurry of activity completed, the SC housed in H103A and running thru the gauntlet of tests, our first team building exercise was held….a welcome to Baikonur BBQ.  The team dined on ribs, chicken and hot links in addition to a plethora of nibbles and side dishes.   By nights end old friends had caught up and new friends had been made.  Not only do SSL build great SC they are also seasoned BBQ Masters! It’s a win/win for all on this mission.

May 1, 2016

26 April 2116…..a glorious early evening/night for our SC off-load!

Mother Nature pulled out all the stops and provided perfect spring weather, blue skies with a whisper of clouds streaked thru it, sunshine and a warm breeze as a multitude of teams gathered to watch the AN 124 descending and make a perfect landing at Yubileiny airfield.

Once the Volga-Dnepr crew had safely parked the plane it was all systems go.  From the front of the plane the crew configured the ramp needed for the SC container to be transferred to the railcar, in parallel at the aft end of the plane, the remaining crew was hard at work unloading the numerous pieces of GSE equipment (sea/land containers; weights) necessary to complete our campaign.  Anything and everything the team needs for launch is shipped from home base into Baikonur for the mission.

Cohesive team work at its finest! Once the aft end of the plan was empty, all attention was turned to the SC container holding our precious cargo.  With precision timing, efficiency, stellar communications and a fastidiousness of multiple operations that has taken years of working together to perfect the SC was off-loaded and smoothly placed on to the railcar and tied down.

Meanwhile with the sun well below the horizon, and the night sky now filled with a plethora of twinkling stars, the floodlights were powered up, illuminating the last remaining areas of work, the team continued working at a good clip to close out the final operations.

At 2207 (a scant five hours after arrival) the train departed the airfield laden with the remaining GSE equipment and headed to 92A50. Two convoys of trucks had successfully been loaded, escorted to 92A50 and off-loaded to the designated areas well before the train departed.  The teams bid each other adieu, congratulated each other on a job well done and headed out into the “short” starlit night…for a mere 5 hours later at 0337, our train arrived safe and sound at 92A50.

…and so our campaign moves into the next phase…..SC off-load, unpacking and stand-alone operations.

April 27, 2016

We had optimal start to our Intelsat 31 campaign in Moscow…team members were bright eyed and bushy tailed for our 0730 hotel pickup.  Sufficiently full from a delish breakfast, luggage stowed, the bus drivers made short work of the journey to Domodevedeo airport to catch our charter.  We were all pleasantly surprised to have barely any traffic on the road…it definitely helps that it was a) early and b) a Saturday morning.

Our next wonderful surprise was our charter being an Airbus A320.  This allowed the team to spread out, have ample room to relax and enjoy the 2 hour 50 minute flight.  We rest when we can.  Our arrival at Krainy Airport was a slightly different story as the delightful spring weather experienced in Moscow was a lot cooler, rainy and windy than previously anticipated during the week.  Seasoned travelers as we all are, warmer clothing was produced from the respective carry-ons as we made the short hop from charter to the terminal.  After clearing immigration, customs, picking up our bags and making a mad dash thru rain to the bus, we started our 40 minute journey to Area 95 and our respective hotels (Fili and Kosmos)...our home for the next 39 days.  We had just enough time to check-in to our rooms, drop our bags and head to the Proton Club for our Arrival Briefing to officially kick off our campaign.

Our initial foundation/preparations have been laid over the past two days, with facility acceptance, preparation for SC arrival, SC off-load planning meetings and daily team tag ups.  We are now, essentially one team working for the common goal of a healthy SC, healthy LV ultimately integrated into one healthy Intelsat 31 rocket.  The team all have a comprehensive grasp of operations that will be performed, ensuring for an productive, cohesive and industrious SC off-load.

Bring on the AN 124 carrying our precious cargo.

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