Airbus Defence and Space

Tandem-X Blog, live from Kazakhstan

This blog is provided by a member of Airbus Defence and Space’s TanDEM-X in-situ launch campaign team and will be bringing you blow-by-blow information on activities as they happen, right up to the launch and beyond. All images copyright : Airbus Defence and Space


Launch Date : 21 June - 04:14 European summer time


Ingo Duschl - Tandem-X

About the TanDEM-X blogger:

Tandem-X is now at the Baikonur cosmodrome undergoing final preparations. Ingo Duschl is the TanDEM-X Head of Integration and AIT Manager and currently working in the Baikonur cosmodrome.







Daily Reports available for:

Day 17 - 27 May 2010

Day 16 - 26 May 2010

Day 12/ 13  - 22 & 23 May 10

Day 11  - 20  May 10

Day 10 - 20 May 10

Day 9 - 19 May 10

Day 8 - 18 May 10

Day 7 - 17 May 10


Day 17 - 27 May 2010

The evaluation of the instrument function test could be completed. All tests were successful the radar instrument will be activated again in the orbit. At present, the report is at our customer DLR where it will be finally checked. A final acceptance is expected tomorrow.
The function test of the satellite bus has also been started according to schedule. These activities include the verification of the functions of the on-board computer, the satellite power supply, the attitude control system and the telecommand/telemetry system. All these tests have been conducted without any problems or irregularities. The quick check of data states "everything is OK"; the detailed evaluation has begun.
So far, everything went according to plan one main reason is the close and specific coordination of activities on the Russian/Ukrainian and German side. For this purpose, a management meeting is held every morning and afternoon for discussing the plan of the respective day and of the next day. To my surprise, all our requests and objections have been considered so far. This aspect of planning certainty, of course, has a certain calming effect on the whole campaign.

Photo of the day:

Our "chef" with his Lebanese kebab on the occasion of a theme night

Upcoming activities:

Test of the cable connection between our battery charging unit and the rocket in the bunker
"Plugs-OFF" test and final deactivation of the satellite


Day 16 - 26 May 2010

In the morning, the entire team 20 colleagues in the meantime reported for "duty". This gave me the chance to request a larger bus. We were very pleased to note that our "beloved" vehicle from the TerraSAR-X launch campaign still existed. The comfort of the German model (including all German markings) beats all the other buses here; the suspension, in particular, is quite acceptable on the steppe roads. As soon as we arrived at MIK, we held the safety briefing for the new colleagues and could immediately start the instrument function test. The procedure optimisation efforts made at the IABG had paid off. The procedures run well and we reached our today's goal the completion of the instrument test. The evaluation of data was immediately started as this activity takes some time. The result of the test is expected on the next day. The test of the GPS occultation antenna passed off without a hitch showing green light for the future.
We asked all colleagues to come to the clean room in the lunch break for a group photo. That was the maximum number of colleagues who were also involved in the launch campaign here in Baikonur. At the end of the weeks, the guys from the tanker crew will head home.
Progress was also made with the Space Head Module (SHM), i.e. the fit-check was conducted with the payload fairing. Everything fitted now, the Ukrainian colleagues continue with testing the SHM electronics. The preparation of the second phase of the functional tests has started at the rocket. This phase encompasses the rocket modification tests from the "military SS-18" to the "civil Dnepr" and is scheduled to start at the beginning of next week.

Photos of the day:

1 Our present "means of travel"

2 Colleagues at the satellite instrument test

3. Group photo with "guardian"

4 Fairing fit check

Upcoming activities:

Evaluation of the instrument function test
Starting of the "BUS" function test


Latest view on TDX in Baikonur

Copyright: DLR, 25th May


Day 12/ 13  - 22. & 23.5.10

The working day started with the traditional “fuelling readiness ceremony” led by the director of KBTHM, the company running the test and fuelling facilities in Baikonur. All involved organisations including Airbus Defence and Space declared readiness for fuelling the satellite – in a written certificate based on the version used for TerraSAR-X. Again we profited from that launch campaign 3 years ago – half of the current team were present.

Fuelling went according to plan so that “hazardous operation finished” could be declared in the afternoon. In accordance with the local tradition, a further fuelling event was held – the insiders should know what is meant without further explanation.

Today we reached a further milestone in the launch campaign and look toward the final satellite functional tests planned to start mid-week. Day 13 (23.5.10): finally a day to relax!

Photos of the day

Team leader and our PA responsible monitoring the fuelling

Displays showing all views

Unofficial ‘fuelling event’

Next activities

  • Secure the tank valves
  • Pack the equipment and transport back to the cleanroom

Day 11  - 20  May 10

The countdown has started for fuelling the satellite. This follows a well-proven procedure and starts with a functional test with the fuelling personnel wearing their protection suits. These are supplied with air like those for deep-sea divers. Great care is taken since hydrazine fuel is highly poisonous. Normally none escapes but personnel safety has the highest priority – as indicated by the sign in large red letters over the entrance having the meaning “No work is so important that personnel are endangered”. Safety and evacuation mechanisms were also demonstrated. A fire engine and ambulance standby in case of an emergency. Then the fuelling hose was connected to the hydrazine transport tank and we were ready for the next milestone in the launch campaign.

Those colleagues not directly involved in the fuelling were able to enjoy 2 free days. Although the hotel thermometer showed only 6°C earlier, blue sky over the steppe greeted us during the morning bus journey to the integration/ test facility.

Photos of the day

Operator at the hydrazine transport tank

Operator at the satellite filling valve

Next steps:

Meeting of all parties (fuelling station, rescue team, security and Airbus Defence and Space) to confirm “ready for fuelling” Fuelling the satellite with hydrazine then pressurisation of the tank


Day 10 - 20 May 10

Today is the transfer to the fuelling station over a distance of only 500m but over several railway lines on the way. We were able to slow down the truck driver to avoid shocks. There is hardly enough space in the fuelling station and it is like solving a puzzle getting all equipment (container, traverse, turning stand and satellite) to the correct position at the right time. Since it worked for TerraSAR-X it should work for TanDEM-X! As usua, we had malny non-involved Russian observers. Normally the satellite or upper rocket stage would be fuelled mounted on a railway wagon. We had to mount TanDEM-X in its turning stand and arrange vertically to allow the fumes above the fuel to be bled off safely via a second connection. The tank facility – in fact, supplied by Airbus Defence and Space Lampoldshausen – was then tested and proved fully functional and is now ready for fuelling the satellite.

The weather fitted the forecast: the temperature dropped significantly and it even rained – which is quite seldom for the continental climate and gave the steppe a small chance to blossom.

Photos of the day

On the way to the fuelling station

Entering the fuelling station

TanDEM-X prepared for fuelling

Next activities:

Scape training (fitting and test of the protection suits)

Demonstration of the safety and rescue facilities

Final preparation for fuelling

Connection of the fuelling hose with the hydrazine transport tank


Day 9 - 19 May 10

The lorry arrived in the MIK on time and we started as planned with the transport of the equipment to the fuelling station. Punctuality is not a matter of course in Baikonur. The lorry was specially ordered and came from the 50 kilometers far away Baikonur City. It has to pass at least 3 check points with long queues. Our security escort meant that the lorry could pass without waiting.

The fuelling station was well prepared when the equipment arrived and we started immediately with unpacking. The Crew from Lampoldshausen have started to assemble their fuelling equipment and so we are still in plan.

Photos of the day

Installation of the satellite multi-purpose trolley in the fuelling station

A model of a Sojus-Rocket with information board in front of our assembly hall

Our constant companions in the steppe

Next steps:

Transport satellite to the fuelling station
Installation of the satellite in its stand
Finishing the fuelling equipment set-up

Day 8 - 18 May 10

Our colleagues from Lampoldshausen have reduced the pressure in the hydrazine tank to transportation level. Afterwards we wrapped the satellite in protective foil and placed it in the transport container. Experience allowed quick progress and we could start our "journey" to the hotel at 17:30.

The temperature now is over 30°C calling for an enjoyable beer after work. A pub has opened directly at the river with a great view over the steppe and "wild" horses bathing in the "Syr-Darja" river.

Photos of the day

Transfer of the satellite from the multi-purpose trolley to the container

Two of our colleagues "waiting for the bus"


View over the Syr-Darja river


Next steps:

Transport to and installation of equipment in the fuelling station


Day 7 - 17 May 10

The team started the new week fully charged after enjoying a free Sunday!

Calculation of the nitrogen mass in the cold gas tank using the settled temperature confirmed that the required mass has been reached and no further fuelling is necessary. Hence all valves of the cold gas system have been configured for flight. Arno Dietrich’s job is well done and he will be the first team member to return home on Friday.

Our tank crew from Lampoldshausen also made good progress continuing with the tightness/leakage test of the hydrazine propulsion system. Tightness was demonstrated and they started releasing pressure.

Kosmotras have informed that everything is fine with our rocket. It was delivered to Baikonur as an "SS-18" from the military depot. After a kind of incoming inspection, the rocket was converted into the "civil version - Dnjepr" and tested successfully again. Next (beginning of June) the Space Head Module (SHM) - without satellite - will be transferred to the rocket and the complete system will be tested. The SHM will then be brought back from the silo to install TanDEM-X.

There are a lot of security guards here we brought a special reinforcement from Germany who is always watching over TanDEM-X. You can see him in the picture.

Next steps:

  • Completion of tightness test of the hydrazine propulsion system
  • Wrap the satellite in protective foil for work at the fuelling station
  • Place the satellite and its stand in transport containers for transfer to the fuelling station