Interpreting a rocket launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome

August 2017

A few months ago, I received a call from someone asking if I’d be interested in working as a trilingual interpreter (Russian, Spanish, English) for a launch campaign “in Russia.” The person on the other end of the line didn’t give me many specifics due to the confidentiality of jobs of this nature, but she gave me just enough to pique my interest. I saw this as a sign; there had already been a voice in the back of my head, particularly since interpreting at United Nations Headquarters in February, telling me I needed to leave my job at Apple and return to self-employment.

So that’s what I did. 

After leaving Apple in April, I devoted the months of May, June and July to travel — up and down the West Coast of the U.S. to visit friends and family and then through the Balkans, a trip I had been planning for years (more on that later).

Fast-forward to early August when, after a quick jaunt from Germany to Washington, DC, for a Russian business visa, I found myself in Moscow for 24 hours, preparing for my charter flight to Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

Interpreting for the Amazonas-5 launch campaign for the past four weeks has been quite an experience. Essentially, I have been supporting anything from morning coordination meetings to an array of processes launching a spacecraft entails. This includes various loading and unloading, testing, and fueling operations involving the launch vehicle, the adapter system, the upper stage and the spacecraft.

Baikonur in Pictures

In and around the Cosmodrome
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Flying into Krayniy Airport on a hot August day
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Approaching Area 95 (where our hotel is located), with Launchpad 24 in the background
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The dogs of Area 95 at home in an abandoned sports complex

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Stumbled upon Mr. Б (there was a big “Б” branded on his butt) during an evening walk around the premises
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“здесь был я”
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Mr. Б from afar
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Mr. Б shares the road
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View from my window #1 (that tall white rectangle is the same World War II monument seen in the second picture)
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View from my window #2: a camel ride during a barbecue
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View from my window #3: Oscar and his kite
Flying Oscar’s kite in front of our hotel
Baikonur Town and the Baikonur Cosmodrome Museum

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Buran space shuttle!
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In the cockpit of the Buran space shuttle
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Oscar admires the Soyuz spacecraft from the 1960s

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Kazakh children hopping around town
At the office
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Posing with part of the crew (including the spacecraft manufacturer, the customer, and the launch services provider) after interpreting an intimate tour of the Proton launch vehicle processing facility led by Colonel Goryushkin
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Photo op in the lobby of the Khrunichev Space Center

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Neil, one of our doctors, a fellow Mexican from Vera Cruz!
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Vova, one of our coordinators, was very excited about the new portrait he got for our office

The Amazonas-5 satellite, operated by Hispasat, will be providing telecom to Central and South America.

Here’s some more information on the launch:

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