"The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean... Recently, we've managed to wade a little way out, and the water seems inviting." - Carl Sagan
Swarm on the launch pad
Preparations for Friday’s launch of ESA’s magnetic explorer have reached an important milestone – the constellation is now in the Plesetsk launch tower.
The team in northern Russia said farewell to the three Swarm satellites at the weekend as they sealed them from view within the rocket’s fairing, which protects them from the rigours of launch.
This marks the culmination of two months of work testing and preparing the Swarm constellation for launch at the cosmodrome.
The fairing half-shells will open almost three minutes after launch. Once the second stage of the Rockot launcher has separated a few minutes later, the satellites will be taken into orbit by the Breeze-KM upper stage.
Just over 90 minutes after launch and at an altitude of 490 km, Breeze will release the trio simultaneously into orbit around Earth.
The next steps on the road to launch involve a ‘dress rehearsal’ of the launch procedure and fuelling of the rocket for launch on 22 November at 12:02 GMT (13:02 CET).
For four years, Swarm will study the mysteries of Earth’s magnetic field, its interactions with the solar wind and its links to global change.
Image credit: ESA–S. Corvaja, 2013