Soyuz is ready to receive its O3b Networks satellite payload for Arianespace’s next medium-lift mission
The 10th Soyuz to be operated from the Spaceport in French Guiana is now on the launch pad, ready to receive its four-satellite O3b Networks payload for Arianespace’s afternoon mission this Thursday.
Using the rollout process that has been followed since the medium-lift Soyuz inaugurated the Space Age, the basic three-stage vehicle emerged from its integration building in the Spaceport’s northwestern sector, and was transferred horizontally to the ELS launch zone.
During its horizontal transfer today, the Soyuz for Arianespace’s upcoming mission passes under the mobile gantry on its way to the launch pad.
Riding on a transporter/erector rail car, Soyuz was raised to the vertical orientation and positioned over the launch pad, suspended in place by four large support arms.
In a process unique to Arianespace’s operations at the Spaceport, a purpose-built 53-meter-tall mobile gantry was then moved into position around the launcher, providing a protected environment for installation of the “upper composite” – which consists of the four O3b Networks connectivity spacecraft, the Fregat upper stage and an ST-type payload fairing.
Arianespace’s December 18 flight will be its third at the service of O3b Networks, following Soyuz missions performed in July 2014 and June 2013 that launched similar clusters of four satellites each.
The O3b Networks Ka-band relay platforms are produced by Thales Alenia Space, creating a constellation for telecommunications and Internet services that combine high speed and affordable costs for billions of people across the world who do not yet have adequate internet access.
O3b Networks’ satellites operate at a medium Earth orbit (MEO) of 8,062 km., significantly reducing the round-trip data transmission times when compared to telecommunications satellites in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) at 36,000 km.
Each of the trapezoidal-shaped spacecraft have a liftoff mass of 700 kg., with the upcoming Arianespace mission – designated Flight VS10 in the company’s launcher family numbering system – providing a total payload lift performance of approximately 3,180 kg.