After the ASTRO-H SXS has been filled with liquid helium it must be monitored around the clock in case any problems should arise. To provide such vigilant supervision, a two-shift system of workers monitoring the satellite is in place. The weather in the area of late has been uneven with some nights peaceful and other nights stormy. If a storm approaches the launch area the SXS refrigeration system must immediately be shut down. Likewise, once the storm has passed it must be turned on as quickly as possible. This is because as soon as the system has been shut down, temperatures begin to rise and some the liquid helium begins to boil off. If the refrigeration system is not soon restarted it might become necessary to re-fill the SXS with liquid helium, and losing such time now can result in delaying the launch.
The satellite has passed through many tests to reach this day of launch. And yet conditions are always just a little different at the launch site from what the conditions were for these tests. Sometimes the satellite behaves just a little differently than during a previous test or something
behaves in a way that has not been seen. When these moments arise, the cause of the behavior must be calmly and thoroughly investigated. Is the behavior normal? Does it signal a problem?
Tanegashima is a small town surrounded by Nature. As such, the building where the rocket is housed is exposed to the elements. Sometimes there are strong winds, other times snow may fall. It is not unusual to have wild animals around the building. Whatever may happen, the rocket — and the satellite! — must be protected. And so teams are on hand throughout the day and night, watching over things. Over the past two weeks the SXS team has participated in these duties. Now, on the morning of launch day, as the satellite towers peacefully we cannot help but say “Good morning! You look fine!” Our final work before launch is now done.