Feature story

Feature story

A world's first for the launch services industry: Arianespace concurrently manages six missions with Ariane 5 and Soyuz

September 7, 2012

Arianespace is managing concurrent activities for six different upcoming missions, underscoring the company’s capability to accommodate a diverse range of payloads for customers worldwide, and marking a world’s first in the launch services sector.


Metop-B is lowered into position atop the Fregat upper stage during integration activity at Baikonur Cosmodrome for Soyuz Flight ST25, which is to be launched September 17.

These missions will utilize two members of Arianespace’s launcher family: the heavy-lift Ariane 5 and medium-lift Soyuz, involving flights with telecommunications relay platforms for geostationary transfer orbit delivery; constellation navigation satellites to operate in circular medium Earth orbit; a high-resolution optical spacecraft for delivery to Sun-synchronous orbit; a meteorological satellite for polar orbit, and a low-Earth mission carrying the next large resupply craft to the International Space Station.

“What we see today is the result of Arianespace’s multi-year efforts to put resources in place for the management of a true launcher family, as well as the know-how to operate this family in meeting the needs of our customers worldwide,” explained Louis Laurent, the company’s Senior Vice President – Programs.

A Soyuz flight from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome on September 17 will be the first of these six missions, with this launch performed by Arianespace’s Starsem affiliate to loft Europe’s Metop-B polar-orbiting meteorological spacecraft.  Metop-B was integrated atop the Fregat upper stage during activity in this week in Starsem’s Upper Composite Integration Facility (UCIF) at the Cosmodrome.  After its launch, Metop-B will join the nearly identical Metop-A spacecraft lofted by Starsem in October 2006 on another Soyuz mission from Baikonur Cosmodrome.

The five other upcoming missions are to be performed from the Spaceport in French Guiana, highlighting this South American launch site’s capacity to support Arianespace’s complete launcher family, which is composed of Ariane 5, Soyuz and the light-lift Vega, Laurent said.


GSAT-10 (at left) and ASTRA 2F are completing their checkout process in French Guiana for launch on Arianespace's next Ariane 5 mission – Flight VA209 – scheduled for a September 21 liftoff.

“There never has been such a high level of activity at the Spaceport, which is demonstrating its readiness to support Arianespace’s full complement of launch vehicles,” he added.  “As importantly, it shows the real benefits of synergy created by the industrial teams involved with all members of our launcher family – which provides key operational and competitive advantages for Arianespace.”

The concurrent missions now underway at the Spaceport begin with an Ariane 5 launch to carry the European ASTRA 2F and Indian GSAT-10 geostationary telecommunications satellites, scheduled for September 21.  Designated Flight VA209 in Arianespace’s mission numbering system, this will be the 65th flight of an Ariane 5 from French Guiana, and the 209th liftoff of an Ariane-series vehicle.   The mission’s launcher is inside the Spaceport’s Ariane 5 Final Assembly Building, undergoing final preparations prior to the integration of its two satellites – which are being readied separately in clean room facilities at the launch site.

It will be followed by Arianespace’s third Soyuz mission from the Spaceport.  Designated Flight VS03, its liftoff is set for October 10, carrying two more In-Orbit Validation (IOV) spacecraft for Europe’s Galileo navigation system.  Both IOV satellites are continuing their pre-flight preparations at the Spaceport.  In parallel activities, the ELS launch site is being readied for Flight VS03, while the mission’s Fregat upper stage is undergoing checkout in the S3B clean room building at the Spaceport, and initial build-up was completed with the Soyuz vehicle in its MIK Launcher Integration Building.  The flight’s two Galileo IOV satellites will join another pair of similar spacecraft launched by Arianespace in October 2011 on Soyuz’ VS01 inaugural flight from French Guiana.


Build-up of the Ariane 5 for Flight VA210 is underway at the Spaceport, where its core cryogenic stage is shown being positioned over one of two launch tables used with Arianespace's heavy-lift workhorse.

Arianespace’s next launch in the company’s busy manifest will be Flight VA210, scheduled for early November from French Guiana with an Ariane 5 to loft the Star One C3 and W6A telecommunications satellites.  The vehicle for this mission is now undergoing assembly in the Spaceport’s Ariane 5 Launcher Integration Building, where its cryogenic core stage has been mated with the vehicle’s two solid propellant boosters. 

The subsequent Arianespace mission will use a Soyuz on this launcher’s fourth flight from the Spaceport, carrying France’s Pléiades 2 very high resolution optical observation satellite.  Planned for a late November liftoff and designated Flight VS04, early preparations for this mission include initial electrical testing of the Fregat upper stage, which is positioned on a rig inside the Spaceport’s Soyuz MIK Launcher Integration Building.  Flight VS04 is a follow-on to Arianespace’s December 2011 orbiting of Pléiades 1, which was flown on the VS02 Soyuz mission from French Guiana.

Laurent noted that Arianespace’s support for the sixth flight currently in preparation involves long-lead activity for an Ariane 5 launch next year to orbit Europe’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) on a resupply mission to the International Space Station.  Arianespace’s Launch Site Operations Manager for this mission, designated VA213, already is in place at the Spaceport, where initial ATV team members have arrived, along with ground support equipment.  The ATV itself is now en-route to South America aboard a ship, having departed Europe in late August.

To date in 2012, Arianespace has conducted four Ariane 5 missions – delivering six telecommunications satellites to geostationary transfer orbit, along with an ATV to low Earth orbit.  All of these flights lifted off on time, underscoring the Ariane 5 launch system’s reliability and maturity. 

Also in 2012, Arianespace provided support for the Vega launcher’s maiden flight from French Guiana, which was a qualification launch performed under responsibility of the European Space Agency.

“With the mission successes already logged in 2012, and the pace of activity for our subsequent flights, we clearly are demonstrating that Arianespace’s launch system is operating at full speed,” Laurent concluded.

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