Feature story

Feature story

Loading is underway for the shipment of Arianespace's first two Soyuz launchers to French Guiana

November 5, 2009

The initial two Soyuz vehicles for Arianespace’s operation from the Spaceport in French Guiana are being loaded aboard the MN Colibri transport ship in St. Petersburg, Russia this week in preparation for their transatlantic crossing to South America.

The MN Colibri carries a special message on its transatlantic voyage with the first two Soyuz launchers for operation from the Spaceport in French Guiana.

These vehicles will depart the Russian port city on November 7 for a 5,119-nautical mile Atlantic Ocean crossing, which is to take 15 days. 

The MN Colibri roll-on/roll-off vessel – which is one of two sea-going ships used by Arianespace in the regular transportation of launchers from Europe to South America – will dock at Pariacabo port near Kourou, where the Soyuz vehicles will be unloaded and transported by road to the Spaceport.

This voyage marks another milestone in the preparations for Arianespace’s Soyuz introduction at French Guiana, where the legendary Russian-built medium-lift launcher is planned to make its first flight in 2010. 

Soyuz will operate alongside the heavy-lift Ariane 5, which has been in commercial service at the Spaceport since 1999, and also is expected to be joined in 2010 by the lightweight Vega. 

Both Ariane 5 and Vega are produced by European industrial teams for Arianespace.  Together with Soyuz, they constitute a highly versatile family of commercial vehicles that are managed and operated by a single launch services provider.

From its new home base near the equator in French Guiana, Soyuz will be able to carry communications satellites weighing up to 3 metric tons into geostationary orbit, compared to 1.8 metric tons when the vehicle is flown from its long-operational Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site in Kazakhstan.  Soyuz missions from the Spaceport also are well suited for the launch of scientific and Earth observation spacecraft, as well as satellite constellations.

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