Airbus Defence and Space

Cryosat-2 Blog, live from Kazakhstan

CryoSat-2, the environmental satellite built by Airbus Defence and Space for ESA’s mission to monitor the polar regions, is now at the Baikonur cosmodrome undergoing final preparations. The blog is run by two members of Airbus Defence and Space’s CryoSat-2 in-situ launch campaign team, Spacecraft Launch Manager Klaus Jäger and Spacecraft Operations Manager Edmund Paul, will be bringing you blow-by-blow information on activities as they happen, right up to the launch and beyond.

Launch SuccessfulCryosat 2 Logo

Europe´s Ice research satellite CryoSat-2, which was built by Europe’s leading space company Airbus Defence and Space, is now in orbit. At 15:57 (CEST Time), it was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome (Kazakhstan) on board a Dnepr launcher which has placed the 720 kilogram spacecraft into a polar orbit. Around 17 minutes after launch the spacecraft separated from the upper stage and sent its first signals to the Malindi (Kenya) ground station. CryoSat-2 will measure the ice coverage at the Earth's poles with previously unattained precision for at least the next three and a half years. Its predecessor - CryoSat-1 - was lost in 2005 due to a failure of the launcher.




Cryosat-2 Cryosat-2 Cryosat-2


Cryosat-2 Fact Sheet

Cryosat-2 Activities in January

Cryosat-2 Activities in February


Working in the frozen desert

The Cryosat-2 team - consisting of Airbus Defence and Space and ESA members - has been working from 12 January at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, in the heart of Kazakhstan. Both the satellite and the team have to endure temperatures of as low as -10°C in the Kazakh steppes - these are, of course, outside temperatures. Still : it is much warmer than the climate that the small Earth observation satellite will encounter during its mission: CryoSat-2 will measure the ice coverage at the Earth's poles. The cosmodrome is the launch site of the Dnepr rocket, on-board which CryoSat-2 is scheduled to take off on 25 February. Until this moment the team will be working pretty much non-stop to get the satellite ready for launch. A mission campaign is tough work, but it is exciting to prepare 'our' satellite that we have been taking care of for more than two years now, and to see it doing its job once it reaches orbit.

Thursday, 08.April - launch Day

Today's pic from ESOC Darmstadt/ Germany

Cryosat-2: ESOC control center


Airbus Defence and Space Cryosat-team members on shift in the so called Customer Support Room in ESOC. 15 Airbus Defence and Space staff is working in two shifts  to support the C-2 launch in the LEOP-Phase.

Klaus-Peter Koeble, Airbus Defence and Space´s Cryosat-2 Project Manager at the  Control Desk in the Main Satellite Control Room of ESOC in Darmstadt.

Klaus-Peter Koeble, Airbus Defence and Space´s Cryosat-2 Project Manager at the Control Desk in the Main Satellite Control Room of ESOC in Darmstadt.

Wednesday, 07. April, Day 87, L-1

The last day before the launch! Cryosat-2 was switched on again today mainly to charge the battery again and for a small fine tuning of the launch procedure. Now we are prepared and we cannot wait for the launch to take place.

Weather: around +10°C in the morning and partly sunny.


Tuesday, 06. April, Day 86, L-2

Departure from hotel took place today only at 10:00 in view of the expected long day needed for the launch simulation (Dress Rehearsal). After arrival at the integration centre, MIK, at around 11:00, the activities started according to the Count-Down Procedure with the following major steps (the given times are local times, difference to Central European Time is plus 4h): configuration of EGSE (11:45), establish link to ESOC (12:00), switch-on Cryosat-2 (13:55), achieve launch mode (16:12), voice check with launcher responsible & first time synchronization (18:10/18:40), switch-to internal power (19:10), and finally the simulated launch at 19:57:00. Then the satellite was switched-off (we are very happy that it behaved very well), a short debriefing took place and we arrived back in the hotel around 22:15.

From the satellite check-out room in the integration centre, MIK, we had been in contact with the mission control centre, ESOC, in Darmstadt (Germany) and the launcher control centre (bunker) close to the launchsite. ESOC was in contact with the ground stations involved for the launch day and first orbits e.g. in Malindi (Kenia), Troll (Antarctia), Kiruna (Sweden), Svalbard/Spitzbergen (under Administration of Norway). At the launch day the first chance for telemetry from the satellite is via Malindi immediately after separation at about 15-20 minutes after launch. After safe satellite acquisition the nominal ground station for the routine operations will be only the Kiruna ground station.

After this successful dry run we are looking forward in a very optimistic manner to the launch on Thursday. This is supported by the traditional ceremony for every Russian launch, which took place today at the silo when a priest blessed the DNEPR rocket.

Weather: around +10°C in the morning and partly sunny.

Team at Work

The Cyrosat-2 team at Work

DNEPR Launcher inside its launch canister

DNEPR Launcher inside its launch canister

Monday, 05 Day April  - Day 85,  L-3

In view of our launch date on Thursday, 8th of April this week and the launch day simulation tomorrow (Dress Rehearsal), this Monday after Easter was a working day to prepare for these major events. At the Dress Rehearsal all parties involved will perform the launch day activities in realtime as training and to check the communication network. In addition to the preparation of the dress rehearsal clean-up of the cleanroom area and packing was continued.

Weather: around +10°C in the morning and partly sunny.

Remark to the Easter Week-end:

Although there are no additional holidays for Easter, the people of Baikonur celebrate Easter. At the market special cakes were offered and means to colour eggs. In the church dedicated service took place. The hotel offered also an excellent Easter Lunch and the buffet was decorated with coloured eggs and Easter bred, see pictures. The weather was also fine and warm. On Sunday temperatures above 25°C were achieved in the afternoon. Therefore a lot of people populated the beaches at the Syrdarja River enjoying the sun and having barbeques.

Eggs at the Buffet in the Hotel

Eggs at the Buffet in the Hotel

Easter Bread in Church

Easter Bread in Church

Easter Bread on Market

Easter Bred on Market

Friday, 02. April - Day 82, L-6

This special day, Good Friday, startet also special with a Manned Launch of the Soyuz-FG Rocket to the International Space Station, ISS. Onboard the Soyuz TMA-18 Space Ship there were two male astronauts from Russia and one female from USA. Their return is planned for 16th of September. Few of us had taken the chance to see already the departure of the cosmonauts from the Cosmonauts Hotel around 3:30 in Baikonur.  

The launch took place at beautiful weather conditions and on time at 10:04 (local time). The sound of the engines and the whole event was very impressive and the right preparation for our last days here and our big event on the 8th of April.

Around 11:00 we have been back in the integration centre. The progress of the work at the silo on the rocket allowed us to immediately switch-on Cryosat-2 on the launch vehicle for the first time. The connection from the MIK to Cryosat-2 on the launcher worked without problems and both chains of Cryosat-2 (nominal and redundant) could be checked successfully and also battery charging was completed to the nominal voltage.

Weather: around +4°C in the morning and sunny.

Astronauts leave the Hotel

Astronauts leave the Hotel

Launch Tower rotates

Launch Tower rotates

Soyuz on its way to ISS

Soyuz on its way to ISS

Thursday, 01 April - Day 81, L-7

The "crocodile" left the integration centre, MIK, to the silo around 11:00 accompanied by a truck with the fairing, several cars followed also and the bus with 2 ESA/ASG team members. The trip took place at very low speed (in view of the bumpy road) to avoid any transportation loads onto Cryosat-2 and took therefore around 1 h for a distance of about 10 km. Some time before a mini van with the first part of the launch site test equipment, EGSE, had left the MIK already, a second transport followed later on. The transport of the four EGSE items with 1 t of total weight down to the bunker room (55 stairs) was done a first time already on day 36 and it was hard work. Therefore the team knew what was coming and was prepared accordingly. Finally everything went well.

After some adjustments the link from the bunker to the MIK and to the Mission Control Centre in Darmstadt, ESOC, could be successfully set-up. Therefore tomorrow (which is Good Friday and a working day in Baikonur!) a first switch-on of Cryosat-21 on the DNEPR rocket will be done.

Weather: around +4°C in the morning and sunny.

Images of the day:

Convoi on the way to the silo
Convoi on the way to the silo

Heavy activitiesHeavy activities

Well done, all equipment arrived well in bunker roomWell done, all equipment arrived well in bunker room



The following two pictures show the area around the silo. They have been taken from the DNEPR User Manual as no pictures can be taken at the silo :


Wednesday, 31March - Day 80,  L-8

Main activity of today was the loading of the Space Head Module, SHM, from the moveable trolley, see pictures of yesterday, into the special green painted truck called "crocodile" for transport to the launch site. We have performed this activity already once during the first part of the launch campaign (before the interruption due to the launcher modification), see day 32/33. There also a few more details to the truck are given. Again everything went smooth today due to the very professional and experienced Russian colleagues who did this loading.

Weather: around 0°C in the morning and sunny.

Tuesday, 30March, Day 79, L-9

Currently there are two Space Head Modules, SHM, in Area B of the Integration Centre. There is the SHM of Cryosat-2 and the SHM which will later on be used for Tandem-X, the next satellite of Airbus Defence and Space to be launched on DNEPR. Today the Cryosat-2 SHM was moved from its storage position to the moveable trolley to prepare for loading of the emplacer ("crocodile") tomorrow and the Tandem-X SHM was transferred to the integration stand, just waiting for Tandem-X satellite to arrive .

Parallel activities were packing and preparation of these parts of the EGSE which will be transported to the bunker on Thursday.

On launch vehicle side the tests in the silo have been completed successfully, the launch on 8th of April comes closer.

Weather: around 0°C in the morning and sunny.

Image of the day: Team in front of Cryosat-2 SHM and Fairing

Airbus Defence and Space Team in front of Tandem-X SHM


Monday - 29 March, Day 78, L-10

The second part of the satellite switch-on after the storage period was successfully performed today. It showed that also side B of Cryosat-2 is in good shape. In addition battery charging was continued and the communication with the mission control centre, ESOC, in Darmstadt was verified. Based on the successful tests Cryosat-2 is ready for transport to the silo and installation on the DNEPR launcher.

The activities on launcher side in the integration centre, MIK, continued with successful tests of the space head module, SHM.  In addition tests of the DNEPR rocket in the silo using the modified Soft- and Hardware have been started and will be continued tomorrow morning. First tests have been completed successfully; the final results will be reported tomorrow.

Weather: around zero degree in the morning, sunny. The week-end was also sunny, between 0°C and 10°C, cold wind.

Image of the day: "Critical" view inside one of the two lunch boxes we bring with us every morning. The "what is inside?" inspection does not offer a lot of options: sandwiches, hamburger or escalope/cutlet with pasta.


Thursday/ Friday - 25th/26th of March, Day 74/75, L-14/-13

Yesterday and today packing activities were re-started. For example the (empty) Spacecraft transport container was prepared for the return via railway after launch. Main activity today (Friday) was the switch-on of the satellite to verify the health of all subsystems. In addition the achievement of the launch configuration was verified and the battery was charged in parallel. These activities could be successfully completed. This shows that the satellite has well survived the storage period which started on 26th of February.

On launcher side the control units with the new S/W arrived on the launch site after successful customs clearance and have been integrated into the DNEPR launcher today. Testing will be done on Monday.

Weather: morning temperatures around zero yesterday and +6° today. Both days have been sunny. Sun-rise is now around 7:30 and sun-set around 19:30, which makes the daily trips (with daylight) to and from the launch site more interesting.

Image above: Spacecraft operators happy after successful test

Wednesday, 24th March, Day 73

The launch team has arrived well in Baikonur on 23rd of March. All are happy to restart the campaign with the goal to launch on 8th of April. Together with the team, the new Flight Software arrived which is already installed inside the control units; this is an important step towards the launch. They will be customs processed and then integrated and tested in the Dnepr rocket. This will be finished until 31st of March. In the morning meeting with the Russian colleagues the planning of the next days of launcher and spacecraft activities were agreed. The main steps are: first SC switch-on which will be on Friday 26th this week. Transport of Cryosat-2 inside the Space Head Module, SHM, to the silo will be on 1st of April.

Image right: Pressure check of the RCS System Reaction Control System for Attitude Control and Orbit Control

Weather: +6°C in the morning, cloudy during the day (this is a significant change compared to the first part of the campaign. From our "babysitters" we heard that first few bars opened their beergardens during the last days.





























About the Bloggers

The Cryosat Blog Authors

Klaus Jäger (55), Airbus Defence and Spacecraft Launch Manager, has joined the company in 1985. He worked in several Business Areas (Studies, Ariane, Microgravity). For Airbus Defence and Space he was involved  in the Launch campaigns of XMM-Newton (Ariane 5/Kourou) and Croysat-1 (Rockot /Plesetzsk). Now is a team member of the Crosat-2 Baikonur team and will stay there till launch.


Edmund Paul (49), Airbus Defence and Space Spacecraft Operations Manager, acted as an AIT-Specialist for many projects such as Cluster and Envisat (PEB and Sciamachy). He got first Baikonur experience in the launch campaign of Metop-A. Paul is working for the company since 1988.


Interesting Links

ESA's Cryosat site

Where is Baikonur?

How is the weather in Kazakhstan?