June 3, 2022

Satellite preparation

Before the launch, the satellites are prepared over several weeks in French Guiana. The GSC takes charge of them as soon as they arrive on French Guiana’s soil, and provides a complex so that preparation operations can be carried out in the best possible conditions.


A unique welcome

The vast majority of satellites arrive in French Guiana by plane, a few weeks before the launch. Transporting them requires huge cargo planes that can carry the containers that keep the satellite safe from moisture, heat and impact.

As soon as a satellite arrives at Félix Eboué Airport in Matoury, the GSC teams receive it and place its container on a tow-truck. This exceptional convoy then heads for Kourou to reach the site where the satellite will be prepared.

Comfortable transport

Transport is an essential aspect in the preparation of satellites, from the moment they arrive at the airport, in the preparation facilities, until they are assembled on the launcher. All measures are taken to avoid any damage. Within the cleanroom facilities, each satellite is moved on trolleys or air cushions. To be transferred from one building to another, the satellite is placed in a dedicated container that keeps it in cleanroom conditions throughout the journey.

Three sites receive satellites at the GSC: S1 at the Technical Centre, S3 on the Ariane and Vega launch complexes, and S5 on the Route de l’Espace. All of them provide customers who come to launch their satellites with furnished offices, a control room, and facilities with all the equipment required for preparing the satellites, whether it is for lifting or supplying them with fluids or electricity.

These rooms are also known as cleanrooms, where the particle concentration in the air is measured and controlled. These measurements are necessary due to the extreme conditions of the space environment: once in orbit, any particles on the satellite could melt or freeze and damage its equipment. For example, anyone operating in the satellite preparation facilities must wear a lab coat, a cap and overshoes and, depending on the operation, gloves and a mask. The cleanroom floors, made of antistatic resin, are also designed to avoid particulate contamination. Temperature, humidity and relative pressure are also maintained at the level required by the customer at all times.

Arrivée d'un satellite à l'Aéroport Felix Eboué
 Arrival of a satellite at Félix Eboué Airport

Satellites on a world tour

While the GSC preparation facilities receive the satellites, they are also home to the teams of their manufacturer and their operator. Japanese, Americans, Indians, and Argentinians: they come from all over the world, making the cleanrooms one of the leading venues for international cooperation at the GSC.

Les salles blanches du CSG font l'objet d'un nettoyage quotidien.
The GSC cleanrooms are cleaned daily. 

What does preparing a satellite mean?

Test de déploiement des panneaux solaires de Bepi Colombo

Inspection and testing of satellites

Electrical checks, integration operations, mechanical checks and more: the satellite undergoes a battery of tests during the weeks from the time it is received by the GSC teams until it is integrated on the launcher.

Remplissage en ergols d'un satellite au CSG

Filling satellites with fuel

A few days before they are assembled onto the launcher, the satellites are filled with propellants, their fuel. This delicate operation is carried out by the ergoliers (fuel men): in their uniforms which supply them with breathable air, they carry out the filling under the guidance of the nearby control room.

Pose de la coiffe d'Ariane 5 sur le satellite

Mounting the satellites under the fairing

When the satellites are ready for launch, they are mounted under the launcher fairing to form the upper composite. This assembly is then mounted on the launcher. During Ariane 5 launches with two satellites, the Ariane dual launch system is also mounted under the fairing: it will release the two satellites into orbit.

Virtual tour of the S5 Payload preparation complexhttp://static.zooomez.fr/medias/csg/epcus5/

Virtual tour of the S1 Payload preparation complex: http://static.zooomez.fr/medias/csg/epcus1/

Virtual tour of the S3 Payload preparation complex: http://static.zooomez.fr/medias/csg/epcus3/