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Ready for Launch

August 11, 2009 1:49 pm (GMT)
ILS Launch Team

[b]02 August - 08 August[/b] [b]AU Move to Hall 111 – 2 August 2009[/b] The Space Head Unit (SHU) also referred to as the Ascent Unit (AU) was moved today to Hall 111 for the integration the Proton M Launch Vehicle (LV). Once again we watched as the AU was carefully lifted and then lowered to the transport railcar. Just as before, the operation was performed with precision and careful attention to detail by a small army of KhSC specialists. Environmental conditioning of the AU was monitored and verified to ensure the proper climate for the AU was met before moving the move. All conditions were perfect for the move as the locomotive pulled in and connected to the transport railcar. A sigh of relief could be felt as the train slowly moved away with the AU. Next stop the Integration Hall (Hall 111). [b]Integration to the LV[/b] The Kosmotrans locomotive tugged steadily and true throughout the very short trip to the Integration Hall. Another small army of KhSC specialists eagerly waited as the AU arrived. No time was wasted in moving the it from the transportation railcar. Lifting of the AU was executed with the same precision that we witnessed in Hall 101. Once the AU is connected to the LV, it along with the LV are referred to as the Integrated Launch Vehicle (ILV). The ILV consists of four stages including the Breeze M, and will carry the AsiaSat 5 spacecraft (SC) into orbit. Move from Hall 111 to the Breeze M Fueling Shelter - 6 & 7 August 2009 After exhaustive mechanical and electrical testing, the ILV was hoisted high by KhSC crane operators and carefully placed on the transporter railcar. It is a really impressive sight to see the entire ILV lifted and suspended mid-air before it is lowered to the transporter. This process is critical and the number of personnel allowed in Hall 111 during the operation is strictly limited to those personnel directly involved in the operation. We were fortunate enough to be able to witness this process from the cameras located in the Security Office. The ILV began its short journey to the Breeze M Fueling Shelter to complete the final fueling processes of the Breeze M Upper Stage. As with SC fueling, the Breeze M fueling also is a two day process. During this time, all of the launch campaign personnel except a skeleton crew of Pinkerton’s and ILS spend two days away from the processing facility. For some, the time off is spent in town for sightseeing, touring Gagarin’s museum, and picking up some goodies for the people back at home. Others use the hours for playing video games, reading, watching DVD’s or taking bike rides around the compound. A few card games are thrown into the mix with some coming out winners and other’s ending a few rubles shorter than what they started with. [b]Breeze M Post Fueling BBQ - 7 August 2009[/b] To celebrate the successful Breeze M fueling operation, and the State Commission meetings authorization to rollout to the launch pad, ILS hosted a BBQ for all. Preparation time is imperative for a great BBQ so while some colleagues were preparing for and participating in the State Commission meeting, others were hard at work, marinating tri-tip and ribs, putting together handmade hamburgers, and making sure the beverages were on ice along with stoking the grills for our fiesta that started at 1800. [b]Rollout to the Launch Pad – 8 August 2009[/b] Traditionally, the ILV moves to the launch pad at 0630. This tradition dates back to the exact time that the Soyuz rocket that carried Yuri Gagarin; the first man in space, made its historic journey to the launch pad. Tradition was upheld and the train carrying the ILV and AsiaSat 5 SC departed exactly at 0630 on its two and a half hour journey to launch pad 39. The rather uneventful train trip out to the pad could be watched from various points around Area 95 and drew the biggest crowd of onlookers we have seen so far. Everyone who wanted to attend was permitted on the pad deck to watch the incredible sight as the assembled ILV rolled horizontally into position next to the flame bucket. Then it was hydraulically lifted to its vertical launch position. Talk about a photo opportunity. Pictures, videos, Russian and Americans alike... everyone tried to capture it in as many ways as they could. To commemorate this exciting day, team photos were taken with the ILV of course standing tall and proud in the background. In addition to team photos, it is also when the program directors, launch vehicle managers, and customers film their spots to be added into the broadcast on launch day. The anticipation continues to build as we move from the daily schedule to what is referred to as the 7/701 script. This is the official countdown schedule that will bring us to launch day!

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