Following the announcement of the Venus Express launch delay due to particulate contamination found in the launcher fairing where the spacecraft was installed, ESA staff and industry teams have started an inspection of the spacecraft. This recovery ‘investigation procedure’ has so far revealed a spacecraft in good status.
Having been removed from the Soyuz rocket, the upper composite, consisting of the Venus Express spacecraft attached to the Fregat upper stage and all housed in the rocket fairing, was transported to the Baikonur cosmodrome’s Upper Composite Integration Facility in the early morning of Sunday 23 October. On Monday 24 October the fairing was removed and engineers started the inspection to assess the status of the spacecraft.
The scenario is so far very encouraging, as only fairly large particles, pieces of the insulating material initially covering the launcher’s Fregat upper stage, have been found on the body of the spacecraft. These have been easy to identify by naked eye or with UV lamps, and are being carefully removed with tweezers, vacuum-cleaners or nitrogen gas airbrushes, according to size.
Franco Bonacina | alfa
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