We were in the Summer of 2006 when I joined the ISQ mission in the context of occupational safety, in Kourou, in French Guiana, where the European Space Centre (CSG) is located and the most advanced of all rockets, Ariane 5. The European Space Centre is responsible for the launch of many of the satellites and devices orbiting the Earth and comprises many services, with a particular emphasis on telecommunications, image, the internet, military defence and, for a long time, the supply of the International Space Station (ISS) under an ESA ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) project in which I took part at the level of operational control and safety in the five units launched from Kourou. I confess that, initially, after I was deployed, I felt a mix of fear and personal curiosity, but also and mostly a measure of professional curiosity at being given this opportunity to collaborate in a project of this scale and all that it implies. Portugal, while an active participant as a Member- State of the European Space Agency (ESA), had not played any major role at the technical or especially operational levels in the processes connected with the actual launches, and this was instrumental for my participation to be regarded not just as a personal challenge, but rather a professional one, based on the entire know-how acquired throughout my years in the service of ISQ.

The adaptation to the local culture, the separation from my family, and the French technical jargon, quite specific to the aerospace industry, were difficulties that required absolute commitment, which was eventually rewarded when my stay was extended beyond the three years initially agreed. During this time, I had the opportunity to actively manage occupational safety and operational control, both from the BCS (Bureau de Coordination Sauvegard), from which risk activities shared by all areas are controlled and managed, such as the transport of hazardous materials, like hydrazines, used as fuel for the so-called payloads (satellites), and the unloading of the ships that carry part of the components that will be used in the different rockets. During these ten years, I also participated in the preparation of EPCU (Ensembles de Preparation Charge Utile) payloads as an integral part of the payload to be initially transported in Ariane 5 and, later, also in the Russian Soyuz rocket, as an intermediate solution for payload size, of which the first launch took place in October 2011 in Kourou. Last but not least, the Vega rocket, the smallest of the rockets, saw the light of day. It was a European project whose first launch took place in February 2012, complementing the “family” of European rockets and providing solutions adapted to the needs of each client in terms of payload. Thus, the European Space Centre became a reference in terms of credibility and success based on rigour, quality and management, of which ISQ is an integral part.

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