Our team is hard at work on integration for Amazonia-1 (AZ-1), launching soon on a PSLV out of India. AZ-1,the first of three planned satellites to be developed by INPE, the research unit of the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, is an Earth imaging satellite that can be used to observe and monitor deforestation in the Amazon as well as diversified agriculture in Brazil. It’s also the largest satellite (nearly 700-kilogram) that Spaceflight has managed the launch services for, and our first primary satellite on a PSLV. Yep, we bought the entire rocket!
During the launch campaign, Spaceflight and INPE have been working together to integrate the satellite to the separation system, perform electrical checkouts, and integration to the launch vehicle. With Spaceflight’s experience working numerous PSLV missions, we help as a bridge between INPE and NSIL/ISRO to ensure the planning and execution go as smoothly as possible during the launch campaign, both with the technical personnel at the satellite processing facilities, as well as the personnel who handle our accommodations and dining during a campaign. This is no small concern when an integration team is on the ground for 2 months at a time.
Spaceflight’s senior mission manager Marcy Rugland is just one of the experienced team that makes this mission flow smoothly – this is her 6th PSLV launch campaign and she’ll have spent 83 days in India since Oct 2018 by the end of this mission. While all missions have challenges, COVID has added an extra layer where our experience comes in handy. She’s spent over 30 days in quarantine altogether and had countless COVID tests in order to get customers like INPE in orbit during a global pandemic.
“This mission is an important milestone for Brazil, INPE and Spaceflight and it has been an honor for our team to ready the inaugural Amazonia payload for launch,” said Rugland. “Launching a satellite of this size posed unique complexities that our team expertly orchestrated, leaning on their expertise and years of experience managing missions on the PSLV. At Spaceflight, we are committed to opening up space access for any satellite company, regardless of size, preferred orbit or budget, and to find a way to successfully launch a spacecraft while meeting specific mission needs.”
For our team to get to the launch site, the first step is getting visas to enter India. Border entry restrictions usually result in delays, but because this isn’t our first rodeo, we were able to work with NSIL and the Consulate of India to arrange for business visas for entry. But with changing restrictions (sometimes by the hour!) for flights departing India, flight transfer restrictions for different countries based on country of origin as well as based on nationality of the traveler, and flight routes shutting down with no warning, it was very challenging to coordinate travel plans. With teams headed back to Brazil and USA from India, it’s been a lesson in patience and resourcefulness. Good thing we have both.
The long prep will all be worth it when AZ-1 takes off for orbit. We have been uniquely suited to handle all the technical and logistical challenges for launching this satellite, and our deep experience here will pay off for INPE as AZ-1 turns its focus to observing deforestation in Brazil. Spaceflight is proud to work with INPE on this historic launch for Brazil.
Stay tuned for details on how to watch this one head to orbit.