Welcome to French Guiana: two passengers arrive for Arianespace’s next Soyuz flight
Payload preparation activity for Arianespace’s Soyuz Flight VS14 is underway in French Guiana following the separate deliveries of this upcoming mission’s primary satellite passenger – Sentinel-1B – and the first of three additional payloads that will join it, the Microscope spacecraft.
Sentinel-1B was transported by a chartered An-124 cargo jetliner that landed this week at Félix Eboué International Airport near French Guiana’s capital city, Cayenne – then was unloaded for transfer by road to the Spaceport, where the satellite will be readied for its April 22 launch.
Developed in an industrial consortium led by prime contractor Thales Alenia Space, Sentinel-1B will be orbited for the European Commission’s Copernicus Earth observation program – the goal of which is to ensure European independence in the acquisition and management of environmental data concerning the planet, as well as to support local authorities and policy-makers.
After launch, Sentinel-1B will join its “sister” satellite – Sentinel-1A, which was lofted on a 2014 Arianespace Soyuz mission – in orbit to provide more views of Earth for the Copernicus environmental monitoring effort. Both spacecraft carry an advanced radar for all-weather, day-and-night coverage of Earth’s surface, and working together, will image the entire planet every six days. Arianespace also orbited the Sentinel-2A satellite on a successful Vega mission performed in 2015.
The Microscope passenger for launch on Soyuz Flight VS14 was delivered to French Guiana this week by a 747 cargo jetliner, arriving two days after Sentinel-1B – with a subsequent transfer by road bringing it to the Spaceport for payload processing as well.
Microscope is a 300-kg. satellite built around the CNES French space agency’s Myriade bus, and will be released to a sun-synchronous circular orbit on the April 22 launch – from which it will test the universality of free fall in space, with an accuracy 100-times greater than tests performed on Earth.
CNES’ Microscope is one of three additional payloads to be lofted on Flight VS14, and will be joined by Norway’s first scientific satellite, NORSAT-1; and a cubesat that is part of the European Space Agency’s Fly Your Satellite! educational program.
This upcoming medium-lift Soyuz mission will be the third as part of Arianespace’s busy launch manifest for 2016. It follows two separate flights this year that used heavy-lift Ariane 5 vehicles to orbit Intelsat 29e on January 27; and EUTELSAT 65 West A on March 9.