November 1st, 2011
Arianespace... Second Soyuz Getting Set (Launch)
Preparations for Arianespace’s second Soyuz mission from French Guiana are moving forward as assembly and checkout of the vehicle continue at the Spaceport. Its basic three-stage launcher is now taking shape in the MIK integration hall at the Soyuz launch site, located in the Spaceport’s northwestern sector near the town of Sinnamary. This process began with the horizontal mating of the second-stage central core’s upper and lower sections, using jigs aligned in the MIK facility’s floor-level rail system. The activity cleared the way for installation of the launcher’s four first-stage boosters, of which the first two were mated to its core center stage during the weekend. Its remaining two boosters will be added in the next step, to be followed by integration of the in-line third stage – completing the vehicle’s build-up in the horizontal integration process used for all Soyuz launchers.
Also in the MIK facility, the Soyuz’ Fregat upper stage continues to undergo its checkout, which includes validation of data communications. Once the Fregat’s preparations are complete, this stage will be moved to the Spaceport’s S3B clean room, where it will be integrated with the mission’s payload and fairing – creating the launcher’s upper composite section. The upper composite is to be installed atop the Soyuz once the vehicle is rolled out to the launch pad and erected in the vertical position, protected by a purpose-built mobile service gantry.
For this no. 2 flight of Soyuz from French Guiana – which is set for December 16th – the medium-lift launcher will carry a multi-passenger payload composed of the French CNES space agency’s Pleiades optical Earth observation satellite, accompanied by four French Elisa micro-satellite demonstrators for defense-related electronic intelligence gathering (ELINT), and the Chilean SSOT (Sistema satelital de Observación de la Tierra) optical satellite for civilian and defense Earth observation. Arianespace introduced Soyuz at the Spaceport with a highly successful inaugural flight on October 21, which placed two Galileo navigation satellites into circular medium-Earth orbit. Soyuz joins the heavy-lift Ariane 5 vehicle in French Guiana, with Arianespace’s launcher family to further expand when the lightweight Vega begins operations at the Spaceport in early 2012.