Back in the clean room, technicians check that the satellites fit together for launch. They wear gloves, treating the three spacecraft like precious artefacts. Such is their care that I wonder how they are going to feel when they strap the Swarm constellation to the top of a converted Russian Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and blast it into space. Probably a little nervous.
But Zaglauer says it is all part of the job. “If you don’t like to see the launch you shouldn’t work in the space business,” he says matter-of-factly.
However, he admits the best bit is when it is over and the satellites you worked on for more than five years are in orbit and sending back signals. “We are more excited when we see data on the screens…then we celebrate.”
Swarm is due for launch on a Rockot launcher (a converted SS19 intercontinental ballistic missile) in July from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. The satellites will end up in three different orbits to give scientists a 3D view of the Earth’s magnetic field and how it is changing. But having seen Swarm up close, it pains me to think that once they’re packed away in the nosecone of the rocket, these beautiful machines will never be seen again.