SMOS launch campaign has begun!
The beginning of SMOS launch campaign materialized by the transfert of the satellite to Plesetsk cosmodrome (Russia) located at about 600 km north of Moscow.
After a short uncertainty, due to thevery bad weather conditions in the south-east of France that day, the departure on 15/09 afternoon from Thales Alenia Space site in Cannes was delayed. The convoy finaly could reach Nice airport in the evening where the containers were loaded in the Antonov 124 specially chartered. The take-off took place around 1h00 in the morning. After its landing on 16/09 morning in Archangelsk, the containers were transported by truck to the train station where they were then loaded in the afternoon on the special train to Plesetsk that they reached on 17/09 (end of the expedition!).
The first CNES/ESA/TAS campaign teams safely arrived at Plesetsk: they took charge and transfered the containers in the storage hall of the integration building.
The launch campaign should last 6 weeks and will include 2 main phases:
- the activities on the Satellite with the Satellite good health tests after its transportation before filling the hydrazine tanks.
- the so-called 'combined' operations when the Satellite will be fit on the launcher 3rd stage Breeze KM.
The set will be placed under the fairing to constitute the composite, which will then be transported to the launch pad and installed on the first 2 stages of the missile for the last operations before the launch. For the record, the Rockot launcher comes from the conversion of tactical weapons realised in application of STAR treaty signed in 1991 between the USA and the Soviet Union. This treaty decided the destruction of some nuclear missiles such as the SS-19. Instead of physically destroying these weapons, it was made possible to use these missiles for commercial and civile applications. Thus the 2 stages of the SS-19 missile have been converted to give birth to the commercial launcher Rockot: with the addition of a 3rd stage Breeze KM, Rockot can transport 2 tons payloads in low orbit.
The scheduled date for SMOS launch is November 2, 2009. SMOS mission will thus enable to supply the world scientific community the first soil moisture and ocean salinity estimations in 2010.
More pictures of the campaign in the GALLERY...