14 April 2012

MSG-3 spacecraft arrived in CSG

On 13th April 2012 the MSG-3 Spacecraft, loaded on an Antonov 124-100, left Nice Cote d'Azur airport at ca 8:00 am local time for a planned landing at 16:30 local time, Cayenne, French Guyana. A step over was made on  the Sal Island (Amilcar Cabral international airport) in the Cape Verde archipelago to refuel the plane as it was the case before the modern jets were able to cross the Atlantic ocean in one shot.
On our side, all teams arrived at the Felix Eboué airport at 16:00, were very excited when they saw the Antonov at 16:22 flying over the local control tower.
After a 20 kilometer curve over the rain forest, the Antonov lined up  with the taxiway.
Landing was really great to be observed.
With 53 tons of packed equipment for this Launch campaign, the Antonov was not at this maximum load capacity but completely full in volume. Unloading of the containers started from the rear side of the aircraft at around 17:00 local time.
Once loaded, and clearance obtained from customs, the first trucks left immediately for the CSG.
On the front of the aircraft, a ramp was built for unloading of the MSG-3 transport container.
Note the beautiful colours of the sky at dusk. It seems that we had a bit of chance so far with the weather on this special day.
Very carefully, MSG-3 container was slided along the ramp slope. Note the extremely tiny clearance between the top of the container and the cockpit floor.
At ca 20:30, after the container was lifted on the trailer,  the "convoi exceptionnel" (oversize load) was ready to leave the Cayenne airport for its S5C destination at the Kourou space port. This drive lasted roughly two hours:  the speed was not exceeding 50km/h for reducing shocks, and, en route, some technical stops were made.
When the convoy arrived in CSG (ca 23:10), the rain started to fall heavily,...again! The trailer entered backwards in the S5C Airlock. Note that some precautions with respect to cleanliness were taken: e.g. protective material under the truck wheels
Unloading the trailer was completed at 01:15am  (on Saturday 14/04/2012).
It was definitely a long day for the Thales (TAS) and the CSG support teams. Then, everybody returned to respective hotels for a short night.
Activities continued early this morning starting with the several usual meetings. Transport Container was eventually open ca 12:00.  So far, the baby looks in good shape and having survived the journey.
At Launch Day minus 44, the real campaign can start!

11 April 2012

ESA meet ESA

On 11th April, we had a short informal meeting with Joel the Head of the ESA office at the Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG) to introduce ourselves. He gave us a warm welcome.
Even if ESA is a key player of the CSG space port in Kourou, most of our daily contacts in CSG are with CNES and Arianespace.

Our ESA colleagues permanently based in Guyana are located in Neptune, one of the first building erected at the CSG which can easily be recognised by its nice paintings on the facade.
Though some of these paintings have been slightly damaged by natural erosion, the motives remains very expressive. The text written on the white strip in the middle cannot be read anymore. Was it a fairy tale about space?
Paintings likely represent various allegories or simply an illustration of the non readable fable. This type of art technique is frequently found in other space centers like in Baikonur for instance.
Here below are three close up views of this facade as examples.

...Who dares to put legend?

08 April 2012

The Iracoubo church: an Easter excursion

Form Kourou you follow the N 1 road (Route Nationale 1) heading to Saint Laurent du Maroni for roughly 1 hour. Once you have crossed the Counamama river and passed the police control after the bridge, you will have reach Iracoubo: the village is limited to a single straight street sided by few poor houses. Nothing special. But what will strike you, looking a bit further, is the oversized church with its red roof at the end of the village.
The church was build in 1887 by a French priest, Father Prosper Raffray, with the financial support of the local population (ca 500). At the time the access to the village was only possible by the river, the road did not exist.
What makes in fact this church outstanding is the indoors decoration. First because the fine paintings are remarkable at first glance, second because it was the masterpiece of a prisoner: Pierre Huguet, "matricule 23.492"!
The picture below gives a flavour of the extremely high quality of this naïve art.
A second look shows the freedom the artist took with the representation of the Christian symbols. In a classical church the central nave is sided by two others representing the Trinity. At the Iracoubo church, the left and right naves are dedicated to the Mary  and Joseph.
A look at the ceiling of the central nave confirms this impression:
Finally, even more strange, is the painting below which gives in fact a rare representation of the "father and Child", telling likely more about the own artist's history rather than the wish to perform an academical “Madonna-like” work.
After his death in Cayenne in 1936, Father Prosper Raffray was buried  in Iracoubo in recognition for what he accomplished for the local people. 
About Pierre Huguet, the artist, we don’t know in fact much, but his beautiful painting remain in Iracoubo.

Le Bouyon Wara

The “Bouyon wara”  is a creole spelling to say the “Bouillon d’Awara” (Awara broth). It is a special dish which belongs to the Easter/Pentecost tradition in French Guyana. It can only be prepared when the fruit of the Awara palm tree (Astrocaryum Vulgare) is ripe and this happen at this very period of the year.
 The Awara  fruit  is yellow/orange and looks more or less like a large date. Heavy clusters are hanging under the leaves at the top of the tree.  It can be eaten raw. The bone of the fruit is large, the flesh, rich in vitamin A  has an apricot-like taste and the skin is not edible. The root has depurative properties, but if one looks into more details, this palm tree has still other  pharmaceutical properties.
The principle of this recipe is to prepare a soup made of crushed Awara fruits  in a large pot. The pot is set outdoors on an open wood fire and covered with a large corrugated  plate. Pieces of  smoked chicken and fish as well as pork (pig tails and groins) are added in this preparation. Then it is cooked for several hours. The final preparation looks thick and orange. If  the taste is not frankly spicy, it is slightly salted and  the dominant taste is the smoked resulting mostly from the long cooking. Rice is usually served as a side dish.
One can easily realise that the complete preparation of this broth will take all together more than a day:  preparation and crushing of the fruit for 100 litres of  broth, cutting the meat and fish and the very long stewing up to 36 hours!.
When eventually it is ready, separate dishes may be prepared form the main pot: one for the pork, one for the chicken one for the bacon and one for the fish as represented below:
 As said above, the bouillon wara is a tradition and therefore a unique opportunity to gather all the family like today for Easter, or to organise a nice social event within friends.
Never forget this old saying: "if you eat the Awara broth, in Guyana you will come back!"