....with the payload integration and completion of basic build-up for the Soyuz that will perform this medium-lift launcher’s second flight from French Guiana, which remains on track for a December 16th liftoff. The mission’s Pléiades 1 Earth observation satellite payload has been installed atop the Fregat upper stage during activity in the Spaceport’s S3B clean room facility. Fregat is an autonomous and highly flexible upper stage that can be restarted up to 20 times in flight, and is to place Pléiades 1 into orbit, along with its five co-passengers.
Pléiades 1 will be accompanied by Chile’s SSOT (Sistema satelital de Observación de la Tierra) optical satellite for civilian and defense Earth observation, and four French Elisa micro-satellite demonstrators for defense-related electronic intelligence gathering (ELINT).
In parallel with this payload activity in the S3B facility, the upcoming mission’s Soyuz launcher has completed its basic build-up with the mating of the Block I third stage. This step occurred in the Spaceport’s MIK integration building, readying the Soyuz for rollout to the launch pad, where the payload and Fregat upper stage will be installed vertically inside a protective mobile gantry. Other mission preparations in progress at the Spaceport are Arianespace’s next heavy-lift Ariane 5 flight, scheduled for March 2012 with the no. 3 Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), along with the lightweight Vega’s maiden launch, targeted for January. Additionally, a Soyuz launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome with six Globalstar satellites is being readied for a year-end 2011 liftoff during the week of December 25. This flight will be conducted on behalf of Arianespace by its Starsem affiliate.