November 9, 2013
Swarm Constellation Preps For Launch, Three Satellites In One Payload
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The European Space Agency (ESA) said that it has finished placing all three Swarm satellites on their launch adapter, getting them ready for launch in two weeks. The latest update of the Swarm constellation means that the new Earth observation mission is on track for its November 22 launch.
The Swarm constellation will be measuring the strength and direction of the magnetic electric fields around Earth. ESA said that the satellites will improve scientific understanding of the individual sources of the magnetic field, providing insight into many natural processes.
The magnetic field helps to protect our planet from cosmic radiation and charged particles that attempt to attack Earth in “solar winds.” If this protective shield was not in place, then the atmosphere would not exist, destroying life as we know it.
Each of the satellites have been run through a series of rigorous tests, as well as fueled for their life in orbit. Engineers spent the past week placing the satellites on the custom-built launch adapter, which is part of the upper stage of the rocket and holds them in place within the fairing during launch.
ESA said placing the third satellite on the adapter was challenging because it had to be maneuvered very carefully so it would not damage the two already in position.
“It is very satisfying to see the three Swarm satellites safely on the adapter,” Bruno Bergaglio, ESA’s launch campaign manager, said in a statement. “Some very careful maneuvers and dexterity were involved in positioning and bolting them onto the adapter. The different teams have all worked really hard reach [sic] this milestone and we now look forward to the next important step – encapsulating them in the rocket fairing.”
Russia is preparing the rocket for the November launch right now, according to ESA. The upper stage and fairing have been transferred to the launch pad and will be joining the booster for testing later on. After this, ESA said the satellites will be returned to the integration facility so that they can be encapsulated in the fairing.
ESA postponed the launch of the Swarm constellation satellites by about a week back in October. This decision was made after the launch service provider, Eurockot, decided to replace a unit in the Breeze upper stage of the rocket launcher. The original launch date was scheduled for November 14, but ESA decided to move it a week later.