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Venus Express Meets its Upper Stage.

Preparations for the European Space Agency's Venus Express passed another milestone this week when the spacecraft was connected to its Fregat upper-stage booster. This process was considered hazardous because both the spacecraft and Fregat are fully loaded with fuel. Engineers will continue with a series of tests in preparation for the spacecraft's launch on October 26.

ESA's Venus Express.
ESA's Venus Express spacecraft. Image credit: ESA.

Preparations for ESA's Venus Express mission passed a new milestone when the spacecraft was attached to its Fregat upper-stage rocket. The mission is now only two weeks away from launch on 26 October.

The composite unit of the launch vehicle adapter (LVA) and the Venus Express spacecraft, together called the 'stack', has been mechanically mated with the Fregat upper-stage rocket.

The activity was classified as 'hazardous' since both the spacecraft and the Fregat upper-stage are already fully loaded with highly flammable and toxic propellant. Venus Express carries around 570 kilograms and Fregat about 5000 kilograms of propellant.

The activity was carried out by a combined team from the Venus Express industrial consortium and the team from NPO-Lavotchkin who are designing and building the Fregat upper-stage.

Next activities include the connection of the umbilical cables between Fregat and the LVA, through which the Venus Express spacecraft is powered and commanded while still on the ground. This will be followed by a short spacecraft switch-on and functional test to provide a very basic validation of the spacecraft's on-board hardware.

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