Pathfinder-1 Arrives in India!
I am pleased to report that Pathfinder-1 has passed all checkout tests, and is ready to proceed to fueling and integration on the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) later this week! This milestone reflects the hard work in designing, building, and testing the Pathfinder spacecraft. So congratulations to the team at Spaceflight!
This has been a productive week at the Satish Dhawan Space Center (SDSC) in India. It began last week with a slow drive from the Chennai International Airport to SDSC. And I mean SLOW. It took 12 hours to cover about 90 miles. Part of that was due to the traffic (extremely heavy), part was due to the torrential rain, but it was mostly due to shock sensitivity of the spacecraft in the convoy. Hitting a pothole or speed bump at 10 mph is not as bad as hitting the same obstacle at a normal 60 mph.
After arriving at SDSC, we moved Pathfinder and our equipment into a large clean room. For you technical types, it is a Class 100,000 (ISO 8) clean room. For everyone else, that means no dirt on the floor, walls wiped down, special air handlers and filters to keep fresh air clean, 30 second air showers for all people coming in, and everyone wearing special jackets, hair nets, beard nets, and foot coverings. A single hair follicle that falls onto the optics or circuit board could literally ruin a spacecraft (contamination is still a leading cause of spacecraft failures).
The next few days the team performed system tests on Pathfinder to make sure that nothing was damaged in transit. The tests were all successful, but not without a few hiccups and learning experiences. Then we did some pressure tests and leak checks of the Pathfinder propulsion system and the fuel loading cart using helium gas. Finally, we briefed the Safety Office on our fueling procedures and equipment, which they approved.
The food here is great, the guest quarters are good, the weather is hot and humid, and we are ready to take the last few steps that will lead to launch day.
A special “thanks” to the Antrix and ISRO employees whose professionalism and willingness to help have made this launch campaign fun and successful so far. I hope that you stop by Spaceflight Industries website next week for the final update before launch.
Signing off from Sriharikota, India,