Intelsat 29e Launch: Propulsion Fuel Loading Underway
By Brian Sing, Senior Program Manager, Space Systems Acquisition
With two weeks until the launch of Intelsat 29e, excitement is building at the launch site in French Guiana. Since I last wrote, I’ve been to Paris for the formal acceptance of the launch vehicle by Arianespace, travelled back to California and now I’m in French Guiana, where I’ll stay through the launch – set for two weeks from today.
The next step in preparing IS-29e for launch is to fill its fuel tanks. In the last week, the satellite underwent a test to pressurize and verify tank integrity. This was to demonstrate that the tanks have not been compromised in any way since the satellite left the factory in December.
Loading the oxidizer and fuel onto the satellite is the responsibility of the Boeing Propulsion Team, which will load approximately 1550 kg (3400 lbs.) of oxidizer and 2000 kg (4400 lbs.) of fuel into IS-29e. Once fueled, IS-29e will weigh a hefty 6500 kg (14,300 lbs.) – which is close to the weight of three Chevy Suburban Trucks.
So why so much fuel? After lift-off, the Ariane 5 rocket will drop IS-29e in a Geo Transfer Orbit (GTO). The mission team will then use the satellite’s propulsion system to circularize the orbit and take it to the proper longitude at Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO), which is 35,786 km (22,236 miles) above the Equator. Making this trek from GTO to GEO will consume about 2500 kg (5500 lbs.) of fuel. The rest will be used for station-keeping throughout the satellite’s life.
The type of fuel in the satellite is called hydrazine. Combined with the oxidizer, it forms a highly effective, powerful fuel for satellite propulsion system. In order to load the fuel, Boeing Propulsion Specialists must wear protective gear known as “SCAPE suits” (similar to what you would see during HazMat operations). The suits have self-contained pressurized breathing air and are impervious to outside environments. During fueling operations – which are underway now – only essential personnel in SCAPE suits are near the satellite.
I’ll report back soon as we continue to prepare IS-29e for its “EpicNG” journey.