Arrival at Hall 101

[img]/assets/Images/Media/Ciel-2-Blog/Precious-cargo.jpg[/img] Early morning on Wednesday (04:00 to be exact – we know as we were awake), the spacecraft (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 some football shenanigans if so inclined! The SC container was offloaded, 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 mammoth task was finished by 10:40 a.m. – making for a very long 25-hour day counting all the operations, but using two shifts of personnel. Once the SC container was offloaded and cleaned, 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. The next steps are SC stand-alone testing and propellant load preparation. The ThalesAlenia SC contractor has been busy testing the Ciel II 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 that the SC is healthy, load propellants and configure the SC for launch. After all these steps are done and the SC is completely ready to go for launch, we start “joint operations” where the SC is integrated with the Proton LV. Right now, ThalesAlenia is in the process of verifying that the SC is completely 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 checkout preparations. Everything is proceeding per the plan — a result of the last 18 months of preparation by the Ciel II teams. After all was said and done, we made the time to celebrate the dual birthday of our customer. We have been quite cheeky and given them the nickname of “The Twins.”


SC Offload

[img]/assets/Images/Media/Ciel-2-Blog/ciel-II-SC-Unloading.jpg[/img] The Antonov 124 landed at Yubeleiny Airport at 16:00 local time carrying the Ciel-II spacecraft. Along with the satellite came everything needed to get it ready for launch, as well as some other supplies shipped in by members of the campaign team. After five hours of offloading, the train with the spacecraft and supplies left the airport for the long ride to Building 92A-50, where it arrived at 04:00 Wednesday. After a long evening on the cold tarmac, the team got back to the hotel to warm up, eat a late supper and get some sleep to be ready for the train’s early-morning arrival at 92A-50.


Main Team Arrives

While the early team spent our first day in Baikonur preparing for the spacecraft arrival, the main team personnel were hopping their transcontinental flights to join us. After a night in Moscow and an early wake-up to catch their flight, the main team arrived in Baikonur right on schedule.  To welcome them, we held another safety and security briefing. The evening was completed with a meal and conversation.  The atmosphere was relaxed, because, in the back of everyone’s mind, we knew that there was just one more day of “calm” before the Antonov would arrive and deliver the spacecraft.  Then it would be time for the real fun to begin!


The Campaign Begins!

The sixth ILS launch campaign of 2008 is under way. Two members of the early team set out on the 6th of November from Virginia and met the rest of the team in Moscow to kick off the late fall launch of the Ciel II spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Having all arrived safely in Moscow we met up to share a meal and then settled in for a quick one-night stay.  Our next day started bright and early with our flight to Baikonur.  We arrived on a beautiful day amidst snow flurries, and waved our hellos/goodbyes to members of the outgoing ASTRA 1M team after their successful launch on Wednesday night. After clearing customs and making the short trip to the hotel, we received a warm reception from the Russians welcoming us back for another campaign.  We all settled quickly into our hotel rooms and participated in the safety and security briefing.  The day ended with a hot meal, the renewing of old acquaintances and the introduction of new members of the launch team. The heat has been turned on in Building 92A-50 and we have officially begun the Ciel II launch campaign. Winter woolies have been donned and are being put to good use!


Welcome to the Ciel II Blog

Welcome to the sixth ILS Proton launch campaign for 2008 – the launch of the Ciel II satellite for SES AMERICOM, built by Thales Alenia Space. Follow along with the launch team as they prepare for the December mission.


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