Post Fueling Party and Joint Ops

[b]Post Fueling Party – Hawaiian Style[/b] Space Systems/Loral has outdone themselves again! While their ever so efficient propellant team was hard at work ensuring that the AsiaSat 5 spacecraft was being properly fueled and of course making sure all safety precautions were being followed, the other team members were preparing a Hawaiian style BBQ. Loving care was poured into every detail right down to slow cooking the pork ribs for four hours before their descent into “Mount Santa Maria.” Yes, these tender morsels had the power to satisfy even the angriest of the volcano Gods. The pulled pork was tender and flew from the containers almost as fast as it hit the serving area. The transformation from a desert backdrop to a Tiki pavilion was most impressive. Swathed in hanging fishes, Hawaiian maidens, paper lanterns with traditional Hawaiian music playing in the background, the scene was complete and the luau could begin. The only thing missing was the smell of ocean in the air and waves lapping at our feet! Now what would a Hawaiian luau be without the Hawaiian shirts and lei’s. No disappointment here as the party-goers were clad in their best Hawaiian garb. Hawaiian shirts have definitely made it to the top of Baikonur summer attire and would be a welcomed addition to your wardrobe for summers here. To top the luau off nicely, the wayward camel returned from his walk-about, so in between Hawaiian dances, and conversations, personnel were able to climb aboard the two-humped camel for a quick tour of the area outside the Fili Hotel. This was a fantastic way to wind down from very intense days of fueling, recalibrate the body and soul and to start our Joint Operations schedule with a stress-free mind! [b]Joint Operations – 29 July 2009[/b] Joint Operation began today in Hall 101 with the movement of the Asiasat 5 SC. SS/L personnel moved the SC carefully from its home for the last two weeks in Hall 103A to Hall 101 to begin preparations for mating to the Payload Adapter (PLA) and then onto the Breeze M upper stage. After the SC was moved to Hall 101 it began its slow and careful journey to the PLA. The entire effort was a well orchestrated event with the cast of many performing every task to precise specifications all the while keeping the safety of SC and personnel involved in the operations at the forefront of each step. With the move of the SC to the PLA complete, RUAG personnel began their clampband operations to mate the SC to the PLA. The conclusion of the SC/PLA mating makes the three pieces of hardware the Orbital Unit (OU). The OU will be hoisted onto the Breeze M Upper Stage (US) and encapsulated, but not before a series of exhaustive electrical and mechanical testing is complete. Commencement of Joint Operations is one of the longer days of the campaign and due to the critical nature of each operation. Every detail must be carefully checked and rechecked before the next step in the process begins. These operations in their entirety are very impressive to watch but the most impressive thing is the incredible attention to detail and great care executed in each step.

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Catch-up

[b]BBQ – Spanish-Style[/b] Sundays are fast becoming the day to BBQ. This past Sunday, Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) out did themselves with a full on Spanish-style BBQ. Preparation was the key to this outstanding soiree! Bright and early Sunday morning, the Fili kitchen was a buzz with slicing, dicing, chopping and frying. Raul was in charge of the guacamole, salsa, carnesada and marinades, Carlos was our tortilla guru, Keryn made the Fried Bread. Then, of course, there is Adam… is there anything this man cannot do? Adam made sure everything else was put out, set up, in place and fired up (including the margarita machine). After 8 hours of preparation time our BBQ began in earnest complete with DJ Nor and his sound system! Great team work pulled off a sensational, food made from scratch, sumptuous BBQ that left everyone wanting more. Too much food and not enough room in the stomach! [b]Hall 111 Tour and Launch Pad Familiarization Tour[/b] One of the cool things you get to experience while on launch campaign in Baikonur is seeing the launch vehicle (LV) for the first time in Hall 111. This week in addition to SS/L SC stand-alone operations, KhSC Breeze M fueling preparations, payload fairing (PLF) and payload adapter (PLA) operations, KhSC made time to take members of the AsiaSat 5 launch campaign team on a brief tour of Hall 111. Not to miss out on an opportunity, the customer also joined the Hall 111 contingency for the chance to see the Proton LV up close. A great photo op was had by all! A familiarization tour of the launch pad, Mobile Service Tower (MST) and the vault also took place for those members of the SS/L team who are experiencing Baikonur for the first time. [b]Soyuz Launch – 24 July 2009[/b] [i]Fridays[/i] – you got to love ’em! In the “regular” world one finishes work on a Friday, packs up and heads off for two days of downtime. Here in Baikonur we all work to a schedule which has been planned out months in advance. A planned break in our schedule allowed this Friday to be different; most of the team got the opportunity to watch the launch of an unmanned Soyuz rocket. At 1515 those of us lucky enough to take the planned break, boarded our big blue bus and took a 40 minute ride to the Gagarin’s Start launch pad. Upon arrival at the launch pad viewing area, we clambered out into the sweltering summer heat to try and get a prime position with the Kazakhstan and Russian locals for photos and viewing of the launch. At 1756 the Soyuz took off into a brilliant blue sky filled with wisps of white clouds. Our amateur and professional shutter bugs couldn’t have asked for a better backdrop. ……[url=http://www.ilslaunch.com/asiasat-5-gallery]see photos in the photo gallery![/url] No matter how long one has been in the rocket launching business, watching a rocket being launched is like being a kid in a candy shop….absolutely breath taking , even more so when you are able to view the launch up close. This week, the propulsion team has spent the days working to prepare the facility and themselves for Oxidizer and Fuel loading. KhSC has been diligently running the planned electrical tests on the Launch Vehicle and preparing the Upper Stage Breeze M for their high pressure fueling. [b]Oxidizer Load[/b] The AsiaSat 5 SC operates with a bi-propellant propulsion system. This means that in the vast emptiness of space, it carries two sets of chemicals that react exothermically (hot and explosively!). When combined a hypergolic reaction produces the thrust necessary to provide final drift orbital insertion. The first commodity loaded on day one of SC fueling was the oxidizer. Day one of fueling was a success! The fueling operations required that all non-essential personnel evacuate Building 92A-50. After a Safety walk-thru of Hall 103A was completed, an agreement was reached that all systems were go for SC loading. A very professional and efficient SS/L propellant team put on their SCAPE suits and loaded the oxidizer into the SC. All non-essential personnel got a day off, which included trips into Baikonur town for some souvenir shopping (a must!) and for others some much needed rest and relaxation. [b]Biscuits and Gravy!![/b] Those willing to awake early Sunday morning, were treated to a Southern style breakfast put on by our friends and colleagues, the Pinkertons. Preparations for the Sunday breakfast began the night before with three long hours in the kitchen making biscuits, learning to speak Russian with the kitchen staff and preparing the most excellent home-made sausage gravy. The hard work and preparations for the next morning’s breakfast really paid off when attendees made room for their second and third helpings of hand-made biscuits and gravy with eggs made to order, bacon, coffee and tea on tap, and freshly squeezed orange juice (for those on a health kick!). [b]MIA Camel[/b] Has anyone spotted a two humped camel? Yesterday afternoon the team was looking forward to experiencing a camel ride ….unfortunately, the camel must have got wind of what was going on and decided to take a short holiday enroute to his commitment at the Fili Hotel. We have been told, that the camel riding event is postponed until the camel has finished his walk-about. The few of us who decide to stay at the Fili instead of going into Baikonur town, were delighted to be visited by “Gorsh’ka’ (Joe) our resident camel, who stopped by the Fili Hotel for lunch and a drink. Joe was content to graze on the forna outside our hotel fence. Some of the guys thought he might be thirsty so we helped to quench Joe’s thirst with buckets of water from the hotel. Two mega buckets of water later, Joe meandered off looking extremely content and hydrated! [b]Fuel Load Ops Complete[/b] Because the propellant loading is a hazardous operation, the building was cleared again and the rest of the non-essential personnel spent the day preparing for our Hawaiian BBQ (Luau) relaxing, traveling into town to shop and eat shashlik (a very tasty Russian ka-bob). All went smoothly and according to plan as the SS/L propellant team loaded the hydrazine fuel into the SC. This operation, which took approximately 3 hours, is the second half of the propellant load and marks the completion of the propellant loading phase of SC. Big Kudos to the propellant loading team for their professional and precise execution of the hydrazine loading phase. We will continue with some post-fueling testing of the SC, flight closeouts of all thermal blankets and removal of some Remove Before Flight (RBF) items over the next several days. Joint Operations commence on Wednesday 29 July.

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Breeze M Arrival

[b]Breeze M Arrival[/b] Shipped via Antonov direct from Moscow to Yubileiny airfield our Breeze M was transferred on to a flat bed semi-tractor trailer, strapped down and took a slow, methodical ride to our processing facility 92A-50 on 15 July 2009. Upon arrival, the Breeze M was unpacked in Hall 101 and placed on its stand. During stand alone operations KhSC personnel are preparing the Breeze M for mating with the PLA and SC. [b]Standalone Operations[/b] The SS/Loral SC contractor has been busy testing the AsiaSat5 SC in what is known as stand-alone operations. This is the time in the beginning of the launch campaign when the SC contractors work alone to test and verify the SC is ready, load propellants and configure the SC for launch. After all these steps are done and the SC is ready to go for launch, we start “joint operations” where the SC is integrated with the Proton LV. Right now, they are in the process of verifying that the SC is ready before we proceed to the next step: loading propellants into the tanks inside the SC. In parallel, the SC propellant loading team has been busy with all their checkouts preparations.

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SC Arrival, Unpack/Fitcheck and BBQ

[b]SC/GSE Arrival[/b] What a day!!! The AsiaSat 5 spacecraft (SC) arrived safely from Palo Alto. We had planned on a 12:00 PM arrival time, but were extremely pleased to have the plane land 45 minutes early. Touch down at 11:15 AM. After clearing customs, the team went into high gear operation mode to remove the SC container and support equipment from the airplane. Unlike most typical off-loads which have the SC container being removed from the front of the airplane, the AsiaSat 5 SC was offloaded from the rear of the plane. With highly orchestrated precision, the collective teams unloaded the airplane and had the SC and additional equipment secured to the train in a record three hours. The SC train consists of a locomotive, a car which holds the passengers (affectionately known as the “Doghouse”), a gage car, flatbeds with the SC equipment, a thermal rail car supplying conditioned air to the SC, and finally the SC itself mounted to a flatbed rail car. The gage car is interesting to note because it is an outline of the SC container. If this gage car happens to hit anything along the way, we would immediately stop because this means that the SC container would also hit if we kept moving. We always pre-verify the track with the gage car months before the SC arrives (to ensure compatibility), the day before arrival, and the day of arrival so we are triply sure that nothing will go awry! After a five-hour trip from the airstrip to the arrival at the processing facility, the SC container and the associated equipment were offloaded and moved into the various areas of the facility in which they will be needed. Next step: Unpacking the SC and performing a fitcheck. [b]Unpack and Fitcheck[/b] On the afternoon of July 10, the SC in its container made its way on the train from the airport to the processing facility, referred to as 92A-50. The main room of this building, known as Hall 101, is absolutely huge – more than large enough to accommodate all the train cars containing the SC and support equipment with room to spare for a basketball game if so inclined! The SC container was off-loaded at 21:00 and placed on the floor of the hall, and all the associated equipment was placed in the areas needed to support the unpacking and testing of the SC. This entire operation was finished by 22:45 on July 10 – making for a very long 12 hour day. The SC is well protected within the container, so we left it there overnight. Early the next morning, the riggers came in and started the process of removing the SC from its container. This entails removing the lid, rotating the SC from horizontal to vertical, and using the crane to lift it off its supports. While this was going on, the Khrunichev specialists were preparing the adapter system on its stand in Hall 101 for a fitcheck. To ensure that there are no problems with the mechanical interface of the SC with the adapter and electrical cabling, we perform this short fitcheck before the SC processing and fueling hall, known as Hall 103A. After a successful fitcheck, the SC was moved to a portable dolly and rolled into Hall 103A – its home for the next 14 days. Next step – SC stand alone testing and propellant load preparations! [b]Fili BBQ[/b] After putting in the hard yards over the last few days, SS Loral put on the first official BBQ of the campaign. We gathered the troops and fired up the grill: tri-tip and ribs with accompanying side dishes and topping it off with the famous Baikonur Honeycake for dessert. We never really know how many expert grillers we have on our campaign until the Pinkerton and SS Loral personnel share their proven grilling methods. We discovered that there is no language barrier when it comes to grilling. The weather was perfect for our informal courtyard gathering at Baikonur’s Fili Hotel. ILS, SS Loral, Khrunichev, AsiaSat, Pinkertons and our staff from Altek spent an enjoyable evening relaxing, dining and anticipating the upcoming spacecraft operations. Short of having this BBQ by the side of a pool, it felt like home.

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Proton and Early Team Arrival

[b]Proton Arrival[/b] Due to the integrity, diligence and hardwork of all parties involved, the AsiaSat5 campaign is coming to fruition in a record breaking five month period. Having said this, the proton arrived at the Baikonur Cosmodrome prior to the AsiaSat5 early team and is being processed in Hall 111 as we prepare for the SC arrival. [b]Early Team Arrival[/b] After departing a very cool Moscow, the summer heat and warm breeze blowing across the Yubileiny runway was a welcome change as the Asiasat 5 Launch Campaign team all filed through the customs house, stowed our luggage in the under carriage of the big blue bus and made our way towards Area 95 which we will call home for the next several weeks. The bus ride was rather uneventful – the seasoned launch campaign professionals made use of the down time by taking a snooze in an effort to catch up on some sleep and from crossing a plethora of time zones. The “newbie’s” (of which we have quite a few this campaign) were glued to the windows staring in wonder at the endless miles of Kazakh steppes earth, dotted with patches of green. No herds of two hump camels, or wild horses to view on this bus ride. After clambering off the bus and locating our rooms at the Fili Hotel, we sauntered over to the Proton Club where we had our Safety and Security Briefings. In order for the campaign to run smoothly, we have to have a few rules, regulations and guidelines in place. Once the formalities were taken care of, there was enough time for a late dinner before calling it a day.

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Welcome to the AsiaSat 5 Blog

Welcome to the fourth ILS Proton launch campaign for 2009 – the launch of the Space Systems/Loral-built, AsiaSat 5 satellite for Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company Ltd (AsiaSat). Follow along with the mission team as they prepare for the launch.

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