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.