Soyuz is in the launch zone for its August 21 mission to loft the first two Galileo FOC satellites
Arianespace’s medium-lift workhorse is “standing tall” in French Guiana – and ready for its Galileo payload – following Soyuz’ transfer at the vehicle’s dedicated Spaceport launch complex today.
With the rollout and vertical positioning of the basic three-stage vehicle over the launch pad, Arianespace’s Soyuz marked another step toward its August 21 mission to deploy the first two FOC (Full Operational Capability) satellites for Europe’s Galileo space-based navigation system.
In separate activity at the Spaceport’s S3B facility, the Galileo mission logos have been applied to the payload fairing – which encapsulates this mission’s two-satellite payload and their dispenser system.
In procedures that have become familiar in French Guiana, Soyuz was moved via a transport/erector rail car in a horizontal-transfer process from the MIK launcher assembly facility to the Soyuz launch zone. Once over the launch pad in the Spaceport’s northwestern sector, Soyuz was erected into a vertical orientation, where it is suspended by four large support arms.
With this step complete the mobile gantry was moved into position over the launcher, providing protection for the subsequent installation of Soyuz’ “upper composite” – including the Galileo spacecraft and their dispenser system, the Fregat upper stage and payload fairing.
The Galileo program will create a European-operated navigation system providing highly accurate global positioning services through a constellation of 27 operational satellites and three reserves. The European Commission is funding and executing the FOC phase, with the European Space Agency designated as the system’s development and sourcing agent.
As the latest launch in Galileo’s deployment, Thursday’s Flight VS09 – which is Arianespace’s ninth Soyuz mission from the Spaceport – is scheduled for liftoff at precisely 9:31:14 a.m. local time in French Guiana. Soyuz previously orbited four Galileo IOV (In-Orbit Validation) spacecraft in pairs on missions in 2011 and 2012, as well as two GIOVE (Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element) satellites on flights operated by Arianespace’s Starsem affiliate in 2005 and 2008.