Supporting Arianespace’s mission cadence: A new fueling facility is ready for the Soyuz launcher’s Fregat upper stage
Arianespace’s new Fregat Fueling Facility (FCube) is the latest addition to the Spaceport’s launcher and satellite processing resources, further supporting the company’s sustained mission rates with its launch vehicle family from French Guiana.
Located within the Spaceport’s ELS launch complex for Arianespace’s medium-lift Soyuz vehicle, the FCube was created to fuel the launcher’s Fregat upper stage. A process that previously required about five weeks will be reduced by at least one week with the new facility’s introduction.
The Spaceport’s S3B building has been used for Fregat fueling operations in support of Soyuz missions to date from French Guiana. With the FCube’s introduction, additional S3B capacity is freed up for the fueling of customers’ satellite payloads to be lofted by Arianespace’s family of launchers.
Arianespace defines the FCube refueling solution
The new Fregat Fueling Facility (FCube) – located within the Spaceport’s ELS launch complex – will support Arianespace’s increased mission pace, providing flexibility in managing the company’s launch manifest, while also ensuring higher availability of its Soyuz, Ariane 5 and Vega launchers.
“After in-depth studies with our operational partners at the Spaceport, we demonstrated the lack of fueling capacity to handle all of the satellite payloads that are processed at the Spaceport to meet Arianespace’s mission cadence,” explained Bruno Masse, the company’s project manager. “Arianespace stepped up by committing to the creation of a new fueling facility and to arrange its financing, while identifying the FCube’s creation for Fregat as the most effective solution.”
Fregat is an autonomous and flexible upper stage that extends the Russian-built Soyuz’ capability to perform a full range of missions (to medium-Earth orbit, Sun-synchronous orbit, geostationary transfer orbit and Earth escape trajectories), and can be restarted up to 20 times in flight – enabling it to carry out complex flight profiles.
The FCube is qualified to Class 300,000 clean room conditions, which is a level sufficient for Fregat, and is tailored for the upper stage’s fueling process that involves the loading of UDMH and N2O4 storable propellants, along with N2H4 for attitude control, and helium for propellant tank pressurization.
Designed for a streamlined fueling process
The FCube facility consists of two structures: one building that serves as the remote control center and includes the room where fueling operators are suited up in their protective clothing; and the other building with the Fregat fueling hall, the storage for propellant and gases, and areas to hold support and spare equipment from Fregat’s Russian suppliers.
One of the FCube’s advantages is its fixed connections from each of the propellant/gas storage areas into the fueling hall, replacing the need to set-up and disassemble mobile fueling equipment as was required in the S3B facility.
Masse said the FCube facility’s construction phase was completed April 30 on-time and on-budget, followed by testing and validation during May and June. “This enables us to perform the first fueling of a Fregat in August in support of the next Soyuz launch campaign at the Spaceport,” he added.
With flexibility in mind, the FCube could be used in the future for fueling smaller-sized satellite payloads, accommodating other types of propellants in the FCube’s total storage capacity of 10 metric tons.