PR – With less than two weeks to go before ESA’s gravity mission launches, activities at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome are in full swing. Last week was particularly intense with a number of important tests being carried out. Firstly, the satellite’s ion propulsion valves were successfully checked. Although some of the valves had been dormant for almost two years, all went well. By counteracting drag along GOCE’s exceptionally low orbit above the Earth, the specialised ion propulsion system is integral to keeping the satellite stable.
Secondly, a two-part ‘Integrated System Check’ took place. The first part went well but the second part, on the redundant part of the system, took longer than expected as there were a few minor intermittent problems with the ground electronics used for in the second test. The tests were eventually successfully completed and the data transmitted to Thales Alenia Space in Italy for analysis.