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Satnews Daily
March 26th, 2014

European Space Agency (ESA) + Arianespace—Feeding Sentinel-1A (Launch Preparations)

[SatNews] ESA’s first satellite dedicated to Europe’s environmental monitoring Copernicus program has been fueled and pressurized, ready for its launch on April 3rd.

The Sentinel-1A satellite is now fuelled. This rather hazardous operation cannot be rushed and took a week to complete. The next step is to fix the satellite to the Fregat upper stage of the Soyuz launcher and encapsulate in the rocket fairing. Launch from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana is set for 3 April at 21:02 GMT (23:02 CEST).

Photo is courtesy of ESA–B. v/d Elst.

Since its arrival in Kourou, French Guiana a month ago, Sentinel-1A has been put through a series of stringent tests. As well as ensuring that this new satellite hadn’t incurred any damage during transit from France, the tests included the lengthy process making sure its batteries charge from the solar wings and then release energy to the satellite as needed, as they would do in space. The latest preparations have focused on fueling. As this is an extremely hazardous task, the fueling team has to wear special ‘scape suits.’

While the Sentinel-1A satellite was being fuelled, the Soyuz rocket that will take it into orbit was assembled. Electrical checks on the launcher are currently underway.

Photo is courtesy of Arianespace.

Sentinel-1 is defined by its advanced radar. Able to scan Earth’s surface no matter what the weather and regardless of whether it is day or night, it will be vital for numerous practical applications.In crisis situations, it will be used for rapid response to disasters such as floods and earthquakes. Its radar will routinely monitor shipping zones, map sea ice and provide information on winds and waves for marine traffic, track changes in the way land is being used, and monitor subsidence. While the delicate task of fueling was in process, the three stages of the Soyuz rocket were assembled. The launcher is now going through electrical checks.

With the satellite fully loaded and pressurized, it is now being mated to the adapter before it joins Soyuz’s Fregat upper stage. It will then be encapsulated in the rocket fairing, sealed from view.