Launch Preparations Continue as Intelsat 34 Weighs in
By Mohinder Guru, Senior Manager, Intelsat Spacecraft Program Office.
Part of a series from Intelsat team members overseeing the launch of Intelsat 34 (IS-34).
It was a great day on Friday, when we completed the latest step in the process of getting ready for the 20 August launch of Intelsat 34. That was the day that the Intelsat 34 spacecraft was balanced atop the load ring for critical dry weighing. As expected, the weight of the satellite – before being loaded with any fuel – was well within predicted values.
This is crucial, as the mass of the spacecraft, when fueled, must not exceed 3,300 Kg. in order to conform to launch specifications. Any overage is simply not possible, as the launcher depends on our satellite and our co-passenger’s meeting certain criteria for mass and dimension, among many other factors.
In fact, this launch is unique in that this is the first spacecraft built by SSL for Intelsat that will be flown in the lower position on the Ariane V launcher (our co-passenger will fly in the upper position). Because of that, the spacecraft structure had to be engineered to withstand the dynamic environment in the lower position. This was an exciting technical challenge for all of us and could not have been achieved without impressive focus from and collaboration with my Intelsat colleagues and SSL counterparts.
Next, Intelsat 34 will be fueled. This is always a delicate endeavor that has to be handled with much care and precision, but the SSL propulsion technicians have been trained and will wear SCAPE (Self Contained Atmospheric Protected Equipment) suits to provide protection during the fueling process.
Last week was my final one in Kourou, and I feel privileged to have had a first-hand look at our completed rocket (pictured) minus the payload fairing in the BIL (Launcher Integration Building), thanks goes to our Chef Di Mission, Jean-Marc (for our non-French-speaking readers, that would be “Mission Chief”). The two solid boosters each weigh 237 metric tons and they are free standing on the launch table. Our spacecraft will be mated to the top of this via the Flight Adaptor with which we did the fit-check.
Today, I am flying to Washington, D.C., to join the Intelsat 34 mission team in our Tysons Corner, VA, East Coast Operations Center. I am checking out of the only hotel in Kourou – the “Hotel Des Roches” with its marvelous views of the Atlantic Ocean (and far fewer mosquitos than the bungalows closer to the launch site where the SSL team stays).
Fueling of IS-34 is now underway, and my colleague, Todd Schilb will provide an update on the blog soon.