...for a liftoff in the second half of May, using a Soyuz 2 launcher to orbit the European MetOp-B weather satellite from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome. With MetOp-B undergoing checkout since being delivered on March 6th to the cosmodrome, the launcher campaign has moved into a new phase with today’s arrival of the Soyuz vehicle’s Fregat M upper stage.
MetOp-B was developed as a joint undertaking between the European Space Agency and EUMETSAT (the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites). It is the second of three nearly identical satellites to provide continuous weather observations until 2020, and follows MetOp-A—which was orbited by Starsem in October 2006 on a Soyuz mission from Baikonur Cosmodrome. This upcoming flight uses a modernized Soyuz version of the workhorse Russian-built launcher, which also is in service with Arianespace at the Spaceport in French Guiana.
Starsem is Arianespace’s affiliate company created to operate commercial Soyuz missions from Baikonur Cosmodrome. Its first launch was in February 1999, and the 24 flights performed to date have orbited a diverse range of payloads, including first- and second-generation satellites for Globalstar’s mobile voice and data services, the Cluster II and Corot scientific spacecraft, the Mars Express and Venus Express interplanetary probes, the Galaxy 14 and Amos 2 telecommunications platform, the GIOVE navigation satellite, an Inflatable Reentry and Descent Technology demonstrator, the Radarsat-2 Earth observation satellite, and MetOp-A.