Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Guiana Space Center (CSG)

by Nina (and rearranged by Dad a bit)

The Guiana Space Centre is a program run by the European governments dedicated to sending ‘payloads’ into space.  A ‘payload’ may consist of a satellite for scientific purposes, or it could be a telecommunications satellite.  There are three kinds of rockets currently launched at the CSG, the Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega.

Here are models of the three rockets (left to right Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega).

In this blog I am going to tell you what I learnt about them while in French Guiana.  We arrived at the space centre at 8:30am.  A friend dropped us there and then organized us tickets to go on a tour around the place.  A tour bus turned up and everybody got on, it drove past helicopter pads and areas fenced of with tall fences that had razor wire and electric fence on top.

I will now tell you about my experiences there.

A high tech security system with four layers, one a small chain-link wire fence, two a three meter high chain-link wire fence with razor wire and electric fence on top, three a moat of razor wire and electric fence, four poles with cameras and lights mounted on top.

Ariane 5
Ariane 5 is the largest ‘payload’ rocket on the market.  It weighs 800 tonnes and 90% of that is fuel, and only ten tonnes of that is what they want to send into space.  The Ariane 5 rocket costs $150,000,000 fuel price included, and the satellite costs $50,000,000 so $200,000,000 is going into space and no rocket parts are reusable.

At the Ariane 5 launch pad we saw there was a water tower and a huge pipe going to the launch pad, we asked what they were for.  It turns out they pump huge amounts of water on the launch pad after it goes up to absorb the heat and energy.  The energy makes it vibrate and it can damage the ‘payload’, so you put water on it and it uses up all its energy on making the water into steam.

Ariane 5 at the launch pad with the water tower in far right.

The Ariane 5 launching.

Soyuz can take 5 tonnes into low earth orbit and three tonnes into geostationary orbit.  The rocket is the same design as the rocket that brought the first man into space, he was a Russian.

We learnt from a video how the Soyuz is put together.  It takes 2 years to make and 6 weeks to assemble. It comes out of the assembly building and along a road on a platform, at this stage the rocket is laying down.  When the rocket gets to the launch site a mechanism brings the rocket upright, then the servicing gantry goes around it.  At the moment it does not have the satellite on it so they put that on.  Then the gantry is moved away and the rocket launches.

For launching the rocket Soyuz is suspended over a pit on a platform, the force of the rocket goes up the side of the pit helping it balance.  200,000m³ of earth was moved to make the pit.  We stopped right next to the Soyuz launching platform.  The pit was very impressive.  We saw the large servicing gantry that goes around the rocket when it is on the platform.

The Soyuz pit, launching platform and servicing gantry.

All the different sections of Soyuz.

Soyuz launching.

Vega is the smallest rocket launched at the CSG.  It can carry a 1.5 tonne ‘payload’ and is designed for sending small scientific satellites into low earth orbit.

We went to the building that had the control rooms for Ariane 5 and Vega; it controls the roll-out, fuelling and pre-flight checks. The control rooms weren’t that amazing; there were three rows of desks with computers and a huge TV screen on the front wall.

Vega in final assembly building, with people checking the satellite cowling.

The control room for Ariane 5 and Vega when they are on the launch pad, it controls the fueling up, system checks and the moving of the rocket from the final assembly building to the launch pad.

The Jupiter Room
This is the room that monitors the launch of Vega and Ariane 5.  There are lots of desks with computers on them, and behind them is a gallery of seating for the VIPs and customers.  There are also places for the press.  At the front is a huge television.

Top the VIP seating with models of the three rockets, left the control room, right our guide explaining everything.

The Museum

Then we went to the museum.  The museum wasn’t that good.  It had lots of bill boards and each represented a different era or event, it started at the Big Bang and became more detailed at the start of space exploration, it finished with present events.

The CSG is now considered the most modern and reliable space centre on earth.  20 types of rockets have launched from here.  I have now told you about Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega, the three rockets launched there at the moment and about our experiences there.


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