Metop-C is now safely encapsulated inside the fairing atop the Soyuz launcher and waiting on the launch pad in Kourou.
The fairing protects the satellite, which is in its final flight configuration, during the first 3-and-a-half minutes of its ascent through the atmosphere.
EUMETSAT EPS Programme Manager Manfred Lugert said the operation required to encapsulate the spacecraft went smoothly last week.
Care was taken to ensure no part of the fairing touched sensitive parts of the satellite and that enough room was left as margins for any vibrations during the launch.
The teams involved in the launch campaign at Kourou then symbolically signed the Metop-C mission logo on the fairing, to wish it a safe lift into orbit, Manfred said.
On Friday, the procedure began to roll the Soyuz rocket out to the launch pad.
The operation began at sunrise.
EUMETSAT’s EPS-SG Programme Manager Gökhan Kayal was in Kourou to witness the event, from a distance.
“While it was slowly rolling, we could see the bottom of it with all engines only from a very safe distance,” Gökhan said.
“All of the Russian people in charge of preparing the rocket were walking alongside the rocket and approaching the launch pad at walking speed.
“Unlike in Baikonur (from where Metop-A and Metop-B were launched), this time the launch vehicle arrived at the launch pad without the upper composite (Fregat and Metop-C satellite inside the fairing). Therefore, it looked somehow incomplete and smaller.”
Gökhan said that the rocket was mounted on a railway carrier but pushed by a truck, which was adapted to function on the railway.
“At the same time as the roll-out started, the mobile gantry was moved away from the launch pad towards the preparation facility and so the rocket passed through the mobile gantry to arrive at its final position,” Gökhan said.
“Following some necessary installations it was then slowly erected into the vertical position, the tulip-like four-armed structure around the rocket was then moved into its support position and workers climbed on the service structure to continue the installations. Having stabilised the rocket in its vertical position, the erector was then removed.
“It was then time to take “family pictures” with the erected Soyuz in the background. We were allowed to walk around the launch pad and around the massive flame trench under the launch pad with more opportunities to take photos while the Russians workers continued their preparations on the rocket prior to mating with the upper composite.”
The reason behind all of this effort
As reminder of the reason so many people go to so much effort to bring Metop-C safely into orbit, and then into operations, you can watch the final of our special videos produced for the launch campaign.
This video features interviews with some of the users of our data, for example, the UK Met Office, Météo-France and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts and others.
They talk about the huge impact data from Metop satellites have had on the accuracy of weather forecasting and their hopes for Metop-C.