By Jon Harborne, Senior Program Manager, Intelsat Spacecraft Program Office
On Monday, 25 July, the Intelsat 36 satellite arrived in Cayenne, French Guiana. It had been shipped by an Antonov aircraft from Moffet Field, California. Early on the morning of the 25th, the satellite was carefully unloaded from the aircraft and placed onto a truck for transport by road to the S5 satellite processing facility at CSG (Centre Spatial Guyanais), about 40 miles away.
S5 is a state-of-the-art satellite processing facility with room for several satellites to be processed in parallel. Right now, two Intelsat satellites are there in preparation for the 24 August launch aboard an Ariane 5 vehicle.
Intelsat 36, manufactured by SSL, will be the lower passenger on the launch vehicle, and is currently located in the S5C North facility while the upper passenger manufactured by Boeing, Intelsat 33e, is currently in the S5B facility. S5 has internal corridors that allow the satellites to be transferred from the integration and test halls to fueling halls within a clean, safe and secure environment. Each satellite team has controlled access for their respective satellite and the information is separately maintained.
Upon arrival in S5C, Intelsat 36 was transferred to a handling dolly and connected to test equipment for ten days of round-the-clock tests. Some of these tests included:
- Electrical tests which entail turning on each electrical unit and verifying command and telemetry are performing according to plan.
- Electric propulsion tests validate the Xenon propulsion system to ensure that it is working as expected.
- Bi-propellant propulsion tests encompass the following:
- verify each thruster to make sure it responds correctly to activation commands, check the valve to prove that no leak has occurred, and
- raise the pressures in the tanks to their maximum expected operating level, and validate they hold pressure.
Intelsat 36 passed each test, and the team confirmed the satellite is in working order before filling its tanks with fuel and oxidizer. With the thumbs-up from Intelsat and SSL, the propulsion team donned their SCAPE suits and began the hazardous operation of loading the satellite’s tanks with propellants.