Venus Express To Launch in October
Blazing hot temperatures welcomed ESA’s Venus Express
spacecraft as it arrived at the Yubileiny airport of the Baikonur
cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, over the weekend.
The shipment, including the spacecraft and all the complex
equipment needed for ground support to prepare for launch, was
carried by an Antonov 124 cargo plane which left the airport of
Toulouse, France, on Saturday.
On arrival the spacecraft was unloaded from the huge cargo bay
of the plane and transported by train into the big MIK hangar at
the cosmodrome. In these clean rooms the spacecraft has now started
its final series of tests before launch, scheduled to take place on
From now until the end of August, ESA and the industrial teams
who built Venus Express will check again the integrity of all
spacecraft systems and their functionality after the journey.
This includes the delicate checks of the spacecraft propulsion
system. With these tests, currently underway in the so-called
Hazardous Processing Facility, the engineers ensure that the
propulsion system and the pressurising mechanisms are functioning
correctly, and that the system is still leak-tight after
Subsequent tests on the basic performance of the spacecraft will
follow, such as electrical and functional testing including
on-ground simulation of actual mission scenarios.
After these operations on the spacecraft a new broader series of
tests will start at the beginning of September. The Venus Express
ground system, located at ESA's European Space Operations Centre
(ESOC), in Darmstadt, Germany will be test-connected to the
spacecraft located in Baikonur, so that the engineers can confirm
that the ground station and Venus Express can ‘talk’
properly to each other over the course of the Venus Express
The ESA says everything is on track for launch of Venus Express,
the agency's next planetary mission.