France: The countdown for Sentinel-3A has begun, as satellite is due for launch on 16 February. Preparations are going in full speed at ESA and the task of fuelling the satellite has already been completed. The propulsion team is already decontaminating their equipment before returning home. Since the hydrazine fuel is extremely toxic, so only a few specialists remained in the cleanroom during fuelling. A doctor and security staff waited nearby with an ambulance and fire engine ready to respond to any problems.
After fuelling, the tank was pressurised to an ‘intermediate level’ and left to stabilise overnight. The following day, the team gradually increased the pressure to the level needed. ESA’s Sentinel-3A launch campaign manager, Kristof Gantois, said, “We are really happy to have passed this important milestone. The Thales Alenia Space propulsion team and our propulsion expert executed this challenging task brilliantly.
The Plesetsk launch pad is also now ‘fully certified’, an issue which pushed the launch date to 16 February and the Rockot launcher is also being prepared for the big day. The rocket upper stage is back in the cleanroom after a dry run out on the pad and the next steps involve cleaning the rocket fairing and making it ready to receive the satellite next week. Also, now that the satellite has been fuelled, the Breeze part of the upper stage will be fuelled before the weekend.