With the launch of Sentinel-3A confirmed for 16 February, preparations for liftoff are charging full speed ahead. The tricky task of fuelling the satellite has now been ticked off the ‘to do list’ and the propulsion team is already decontaminating their equipment before returning home.
Official confirmation of the new launch date had to come before the team could start this delicate operation. 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.
Thumbs on the fuelling front. (ESA)
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 required level of 20.5 bar.
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.”
Upon confirmation that there were no hydrazine traces in the air, the fuelling lines could be disconnected and the decontamination phase started.
The fill and drain valves have been closed, torqued ...