[img]/assets/Images/Media/Ciel-2-Blog/Whered-SC-Go.JPG[/img] This is a time of many goodbyes.  The mid-campaign exit charter left with more than half of our French colleagues and one of the customer representatives.  It is also time to say goodbye to the spacecraft (SC), visually anyway, as the payload fairing is ready to be installed. With the SC horizontal and hovering above a rail track, the bottom half of the fairing is situated on a rail car below. It sits in a cradle and is hand cranked in to position under the SC. Once that is in place, the upper half of the fairing is hoisted up by crane and positioned above the prone SC and lowered to mate with the bottom half. Under the watchful ThalesAlenia Space (TAS) team’s supervision, the maneuvers were successful and the Ciel II SC was officially encapsulated in preparation for its ride into orbit. This newly assembled configuration is now called the ascent unit (AU). Once the two halves are secured, the team spends two days performing electrical tests and verifying communications with the encapsulated SC. The term “team” certainly applies in this case, as a veritable plethora of activities are ongoing while the TAS specialists and the Khrunichev teams work together performing pre-launch testing. It is impressive to behold the satellite hovering in a horizontal position, and seeing the whole AU cantilevered off of the tilter stand is even more impressive. Time now to mate the AU to the Proton launch vehicle! The fun continues… One of the more technical operations that is performed is the signing of the payload fairing by the entire launch team. It takes a lot of coordination with all the parties. The exacting nature of this complex operation is really quite a spectacle, as the team members take turns climbing up the ladder, putting their personal touches on the fairing logos and then climbing back down the ladder.  The critical decisions include: what to write and who to dedicate the launch to: parents, children and loved ones of all sorts are named on the fairing as a tribute to them from the launch team members.  It’s a great photo opportunity for the team. It is also the last thing we do prior to mating the AU to the launch vehicle. It has been a long road for the SC contractors and their satellite, and it is at this point that they hand it over to the capable hands of our Russian partners from Khrunichev.

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