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An ingenious dress rehearsal

Written by  Sunday, 15 November 2020 14:30
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An ingenious dress rehearsal Image: An ingenious dress rehearsal

Dress rehearsals don’t just happen on Broadway, they are a vital part of spacecraft launch preparations. After months of practising for a wide range of worst-case scenarios and ‘nominal’ - perfect - lift-offs, the SEOSAT-Ingenio Flight Control Team recently went through the final practise-run, preparing to bring a new Earth observation satellite into orbit.

In the many simulations leading up to this point, the control team worked with a simulated version of the SEOSAT-Ingenio satellite, one which was designed to go wrong in a variety of unpredictable ways, preparing them for the many problems that can arise in space.

On Saturday 14 November, for the first time, they were connected to the satellite on the launchpad in Kourou as well as with partners and colleagues around the globe who are working together to make this launch and 'early orbit' a possibility.

In this photo, Isabel Rojo, Spacecraft Operations Manager for the mission sits in the Main Control Room at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre during the rehearsal. Masks, dividers and strict social distancing rules are now in place across the site.

The flagship SEOSAT-Ingenio is a mission of the Spanish Earth Observation Program, and will launch on Tuesday 17 November at 02:52 CET from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Shortly after launch, the fledgling mission will establish communications with ESA’s ESOC operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany, where teams will monitor and control the spacecraft during its intense first days in space, before handing over control to Spain’s National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA) for routine operations.

During SEOSAT-Ingenio’s early days in space – the critical ‘Launch and Early Orbit Phase’ – teams at ESA mission control will conduct a series of manoeuvres to put it in its target orbit, communicating with the spacecraft using ground stations including ESA’s own Kiruna station in Sweden.

After safely guiding the satellite through this phase, ESOC will hand control over to an INTA control facility in Torrejón de Ardoz, Madrid, which will primarily communicate with it using their own ground station in Torrejón.

Find out more about how teams have been preparing for this launch amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and follow along live via @esaoperations on Twitter where you’ll find rolling coverage leading up to liftoff straight from the heart of mission control.

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