Intelsat 29e Launch: Post-Arrival Activities Underway
By Brian Sing, Senior Program Manager, Space Systems Acquisition
Late Friday, the Intelsat 29e satellite arrived safely at the Guiana Space Centre or, as it is known, Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG), on the eastern side of South America.
After years of designing, constructing and testing the satellite, it is always a bit nerve-racking when we need to transfer and fly the satellite to its launch base. Prior to its arrival at the Guiana Space Centre, teams from Boeing and Intelsat made sure that it was carefully and securely packed into a container that fit inside the fuselage of the Antonov 124 – the largest aircraft in the world.
Once IS-29e was airborne, we carefully tracked it during its route from Los Angeles to French Guiana. It is fair to say that once the satellite safely landed, we all breathed a sigh of relief and you could feel the excitement on the tarmac in Cayenne. From there, it was unloaded and transferred to CSG where the real work began.
As a side note, CSG is an interesting spaceport. It was established on French Territory in 1968 by the European Space Agency and is located in a remote region that makes it ideal for launches of this nature. From this location seven degrees from the equator (where the diameter of earth is the largest), the rocket’s injection orbit for the satellite will have a very low inclination. The lower the inclination, the better, as geostationary satellites have zero inclination once they become operational.
Once IS-29e arrived at CSG, Boeing technicians removed the satellite from the shipping containers (pictured) inside the CSG Payload Processing Facility (PPF) to start the process of readying it for launch. Inside the PPF, an environmentally controlled building, the satellite is in a safe place to begin testing.
First, there was a quick “touch and go” to verify the Ariane 5 satellite launch vehicle adapter and the IS-29e satellite fit perfectly. Boeing and Arianespace did a comprehensive fit check about a year ago with this same adapter. The purpose of this week’s test is to be prepared for the actual flight mate of the rocket to the satellite in a few weeks.
After that, we have “satellite standalone testing” which is primarily to verify the satellite was not damaged in transit. This standalone testing will take approximately three days to complete. During this time, the satellite will be electrically powered up and a series of functional tests will be conducted. That data will be compared with baseline data to insure “nothing has changed” from when IS-29e left the factory.
I’ll report back again soon as we ready this first-of-its-kind Intelsat EpicNG satellite for launch on 27 January 2016!