Launching a satellite is always an adventure as we coordinate satellite and team logistics, but the COVID-19 era has brought a new level of challenge! Luckily, at Spaceflight, flexibility is our hallmark and we have risen to the challenge yet again as we prepared for the launch of our upcoming mission dubbed Vega-1 (Arianespace Flight VV16). This mission will launch 53 microsatellites, nanosatellites and cubesats, including 28 payloads from Spaceflight customers Maxar, Satellogic, Planet, and Swarm Technologies.
One of the first hurdles we needed to cross was getting to French Guiana. With travel from the United States to French Guiana restricted due to COVID-19, we had to receive special permission from the French government to enter French Guiana to complete the launch campaign activities. With no commercial flights from the states to French Guiana, Arianespace arranged a special charter flight for Spaceflight and our customer Maxar, from Miami to Kouru. Upon arrival, our team received a health check and spent 14 days in quarantine in the hotel. Safety first!
After the 14-day quarantine, it was time to get back to work, completing final processing of the spacecraft. For just one example, we needed to de-integrate, recharge, and re-integrate the SpaceBEEs into their QuadPack dispenser. It was a true team effort — and we especially appreciated the support of ISL in the final processing of Swarm SpaceBEEs in the QuadPack dispenser.
After encapsulation was complete, the team had a few extra days prior to our scheduled charter flight back to Miami. A few folks from the integration group, including Ryan from Maxar, Maarten from ISL, and Spaceflight Mission Manager Marcy Rugland, celebrated the completion of the launch campaign activities and their much-deserved freedom from quarantine with an overnight adventure in the rainforest.
Now with the team back in the U.S., we are ready for the launch of Vega-1! Follow us on Twitter for the latest launch updates.