The launch preparations for the first launch of the ExoMars program of ESA in Baikonur have almost concluded. Before some information about the launch campaign is provided please watch this introductory video of ESA explaining the mission and its main goals:
In the beginning of the video above you were able to see how the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) was connected to the launch vehicle adapter. But where was the Schiaparelli lander? Not connected yet! The mating of the lander vehicle to TGO can be seen in the next ESA video:
Next step was to connect the TGO/Schiaparelli stack with the Briz-M upper stage – as can be seen in the ESA image below.
This Briz-M upper stage has an interesting feature – a jettisonable fuel tank. This is a normal Briz-M feature to increase the payload weight by reducing the weight of the upper stage during the mission.
As you have seen until now everything was integrated vertically. This is changing for the next steps of the processing. Therefore the entire Schiaparelli/TGO/Briz-M stack has to be tilted as seen in the ESA video:
Next was that both payload and upper stage were encapsulated in the payload fairing – again shown in another video by ESA:
And then this stack was connected to the huge Proton launcher – as can be seen in this ESA image:
Then the Proton launcher was rolled out of the assembly building – to the fuelling station for the Briz-M upper stage:
The loading of the fuel for the upper stage was successfully concluded. Next step is to roll the Proton to the launch area.
An extremely detailed description of the payload processing can be found here at the website of the expert for Russian space operations Anatoly Zak: russianspaceweb.com .
Update March 11: The Proton launcher has reached the launch pad and is now vertically!
ESA has published now an impressive video of the Proton launcher rollout and how the rocket was put vertical at the launch pad 200 in Baikonur. Here are two snippets of it:
Please open the entire ESA video by clicking on the YouTube link in the tweet above. Thank you!