After being shipped to French Guiana in late June, the spacecraft’s modules have been assembled and its components fully tested.
This assembly, integration and testing (AIT) phase, as it is called, is now complete.
The AIT phase involved functional testing of the service and payload modules and all of the instruments, and ensuring the alignment of the satellite’s sensors, thrusters and instruments.
The propulsion system was tested to maximum operational pressure and then the solar array was fully integrated and its deployment mechanisms verified.
This last step, testing of the solar arrays, was crucial. If the solar array does not deploy after launch, there will be no mission because there will be no source of power.
Also, the Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer (IASI) instrument underwent a final check of the crucial instrument internal release mechanism at the launch site.
EUMETSAT Director-General Alain Ratier and Director for Programme Preparation and Development Cristian Bank had a look at Metop-C in its full configuration during a recent visit to Kourou.
Metop-C was shipped to Kourou in June because it was originally to be launched in September.
However, concerns that the weather conditions, in particular, the winds in high altitude, might constrain the launch availability for a maximum of three consecutive launch attempts due to flight safety reasons, led to the decision being made to reschedule the launch for November.
So, with Metop-C now in its flight configuration, it has been placed on stand-by until mid-September, when the launch campaign will enter its next phase.
The satellite will be kept safely and securely in a clean room at the payload preparation facility in Kourou. The lights will be dimmed and it will be watched over by video sensors.
Nitrogen will be used to flush the sensitive instruments and sub-systems and the flight batteries will be conditioned.
A small team from Airbus (the prime contractors) will be on site to ensure these activities are properly governed and performed. Representatives from the European Space Agency and EUMETSAT will also remain on site.
In the meantime…
While the spacecraft is on stand-by, there remains plenty of work to do here at EUMETSAT HQ in Darmstadt, Germany, to prepare for the launch and the commissioning phase afterwards. We’ll explain more about this in future blog posts.
Additionally, the European Space Operations Centre, which provides the launch and early orbit phase service for Metop-C and is also based in Darmstadt, is preparing to support the critical operations phase shortly after the satellite separates from the launcher and to ensure it is properly deployed and brought to its safe orbit.
Also during the stand-by period, we’ll take a look at why Metop-C is so important for meteorology and climate monitoring. Stay tuned!