If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll know Metop-C safely arrived in Kourou, French Guiana, aboard three massive Antonov cargo planes.
From the airport in Cayenne, a convey of trucks was used to transport the satellite to the European Space Port for preparations for launch. (If you missed it, you can read about it here.)
Putting the pieces together
Metop-C’s service module (SVM) – the compartment that contains equipment for operating the satellite – has been mated with the payload module (PLM), which holds the instruments.
Multilayer insulation has been installed around the interface between the two modules.
This insulation is one of the main features of the spacecraft thermal design. It gives many satellites and other space probes the appearance of being covered in gold foil, although some designs use black insulation.
It will protect the equipment on board Metop-C by stabilising the temperature during its operational lifetime.
After installation of that part of the insulation begins the integration of the third major component of the satellite – the solar array.
Functional testing, integrating the solar array and leak tests
Once the payload module was mated with the service module, functional tests of the complete satellite and instruments were performed.
This required all instrument teams and experts for all major satellite sub-systems present in Kourou closely following the various operational modes and activities. This testing was successfully fully performed.
Metop-C’s solar array extends its dimensions to 17.5m, after deployment. It generates peak power of 2kW to provide the average power consumption of 1.8kW needed to operate the satellite and its instruments and to ensure charging of the spacecraft’s batteries.
The solar array has been physically integrated with the satellite now, tested and a mini-deployment limited to its primary mechanism took place in the payload preparation facility to ensure that it will also deploy smoothly in-orbit. This is the most critical step during the satellite’s launch and early operations phase because only a deployed solar array will allow the autonomous power provision for any further operations.
The spacecraft propulsion system has been checked out for any leaks and has been tested to the maximum expected operational pressure – up to 22 bars.
Testing has ensured that all thrusters and sensors are well-aligned and their orientation is accurately known, as this is important for precise navigation in space.
Equally important for EUMETSAT is the precise orientation and knowledge of the field of view of all instruments, as this determines where the satellite is “looking” and from what precise locations observations are taken.
The way forward
With some outstanding testing of the Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer, one of the nine instruments that make up Metop-C’s payload, most of the spacecraft’s assembly, integration and testing phase activities have been performed.
Metop-C will now be prepared for a stand-by period until mid-September to bridge the gap until the start of the final phase of the launch campaign for the launch date of 7 November (UTC).
During the stand-by period, Metop-C will be stored dark and cooled in the clean room, critical components will be purged with nitrogen and the flight batteries will be well maintained.
As we wait for the final phase of the launch campaign, the Science Blog will publish more stories about Metop-C, its payload and contribution to meteorology and climate monitoring, and the behind-the-scenes work that goes into a satellite launch.
Some facts and figures about Metop-C
*All images were taken and provided to us by ESA staff member, Stèfane Carlier