TanDEM-X is in Baikonur
It was a long, long way to Baikonur. Already, at the beginning of the trip, the cargo plane – loaded with 37 tons of TanDEM-X and its support equipment in six containers – was delayed for several hours. It was not until 22:45 that we were able to leave Munich. One might have hoped that the stop in Ulyanovsk would be short – but on the contrary, the customs checks were extensive and time consuming.
So, we did not arrive in Baikonur until 12 May, at 15:20 local time – and very late. This meant that for the team accompanying the satellite – seven colleagues from Astrium and ‘us’ two from DLR – was destined to have a long day. Even though the unloading of the Antonov transport plane and the loading onto trucks was swiftly and expertly accomplished, the subsequent road journey had some unscheduled breaks and took much longer than planned. A flat tyre forced several stops to effect temporary repairs, but our Russian colleagues were more than a match for the situation. Improvisation is everything and sometimes one must drive a truck with a wheel missing! However, it had to be done. It was dark and clouds were gathering. The test facility at Baikonur therefore had to be reached quickly.
At 20:00 we arrived. The unloading was finally able to start, and at 22:30 – almost 24 hours without rest since our departure from Munich – we finally went to the hotel. It was one-hour drive along roads riddled with potholes, but we were too tired to notice.
That was all behind us after some hours of sleep. Today, 13 May, the shipping containers have been completely unloaded. The satellite has also been removed from its transport container. The Electrical Ground Support Equipment (EGSE) and the mechanical handling systems (MGSE) are ready. Tonight, we begin with the pressurisation of the cold gas system. In the morning, the hydrazine system will be tested for leaks, which will take until the evening. On Friday, 14 May, we will finally be able to power up the satellite. Busy weeks await our team of colleagues from Astrium Lampoldshausen, who will be joined next week by additional test engineers from Friedrichshafen. Also, the weekends will not be completely free, but that is how launch campaigns always are.
Translated from the German original.