From countdown to liftoff: A photo report of Arianespace’s third Soyuz flight from French Guiana
Today’s successful Soyuz VS03 mission performed by Arianespace from French Guiana is detailed during the final countdown and liftoff in this photo report, composed of images provided by photographers of France’s CNES space agency and the European Space Agency – the two agencies responsible for the Spaceport’s development and the coordination of its launch operations.
The VS03 flight’s Soyuz launcher with the two Galileo In-Orbit Validation satellites emerges from the mobile gantry, which started its roll-back one hour before liftoff. This 52-meter-tall structure was developed specifically for Soyuz operations at the Spaceport, providing a controlled environment for integration of the launcher’s upper composite containing the two satellites, the Fregat upper stage and ST payload fairing. Partially visible in the photo’s lower portion is the multi-level reinforced concrete structure that serves as the Soyuz launch pad. (Photo: ESA-CNES-Arianespace/Photo Optique Vidéo CSG – PH Baudon)
Ready for liftoff! Suspended at the launch pad by four support arms, the fueled Soyuz undergoes its final countdown in the ELS launch zone at the Spaceport. In position against the vehicle at left are its two umbilical masts. The shorter blue-colored mast is for the Soyuz vehicle’s core second stage. It is straddled by the larger mast, which provides fluids and electrical connections for the launcher’s third stage, as well as its Fregat upper stage and the vehicle’s payload. (Photo: ESA-CNES-Arianespace/Photo Optique Vidéo CSG – PH Baudon)
This close-up view details the upper portion of Soyuz prior to Flight VS03’s liftoff. Flight VS03’s two Galileo In-Orbit Validation satellites – along with the Fregat upper stage – are housed under the Soyuz ST-type payload fairing, which has a diameter of 4.11 meters and an overall length of 11.4 meters. Below the fairing is Soyuz’ third stage, which is linked by a latticework structure to the vehicle’s core second stage. Visible at the photo’s bottom are two of the four support arms that suspend the vehicle over the launch pad’s flame duct. (Photo: ESA-CNES-Arianespace/Photo Optique Vidéo CSG – PH Baudon)
Flight VS03’s Soyuz begins its initial climbout from the ELS launch site. The four arms that held Soyuz in a suspended position over its launch pad have swung back to their fully opened position, which was initiated by Soyuz’ upward movement at liftoff. The medium-lift Soyuz payload performance for this flight was 1,580 kg., composed of the two 700-kg. Galileo In-Orbit Validation satellites and its dispenser system. (Photo: ESA – S. Corvaja, 2012)
Powered by its four first-stage strap-on boosters and core second stage, the Flight VS03 Soyuz ascends from the ELS launch zone – located in the Spaceport’s northern sector near the city of Sinnamary. This wide-angle image provides a perspective of the massive 149-meter wide X 123-meter long flame duct that was excavated into layers of soil and granite at the Spaceport – recreating the same configuration used at Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome, where Soyuz ushered in the space age. (Photo: ESA – S. Corvaja, 2012)
Several key elements of the Spaceport’s ELS launch facility are highlighted in this liftoff photo for the Soyuz VS03 mission. In the foreground is the Soyuz launcher assembly building, known by the Russian “MIK” designation. Closer to the launch pad is the purpose-built mobile gantry for Soyuz, which is in its parked position at a safe distance 80 meters from the point of liftoff. The launch pad from which Soyuz began its mission is surrounded by four tall lightning protection towers. (Photo: ESA-CNES-Arianespace/Photo Optique Vidéo CSG – JM Guillon)