Arianespace's third Soyuz flight from French Guiana: Liftoff!
October 12, 2012 – Soyuz Flight VS03
The Soyuz launcher with two Galileo In-Orbit Validation (IOV) spacecraft has lifted off from French Guiana, initiating a 3-hour, 44-minute mission that marks Arianespace’s third Spaceport flight utilizing the Russian-built medium-lift vehicle.
Departing the ELS launch complex on schedule at exactly 3:15:01 p.m. local time, this flight has a payload lift performance of approximately 1,580 kg. – which includes some 1,400 kg. for the two Galileo constellation spacecraft, designated FM3 and FM4.
After being orbited by today’s Soyuz mission – which is designated VS03 in Arianespace’s numbering system – these two Galileo satellites will join another pair of similar European navigation spacecraft lofted on the Soyuz launcher’s historic maiden Spaceport flight, performed in October 2011.
All four IOV Galileo satellites were supplied by an Astrium-led consortium, which produced the platforms and has responsibility for the payloads, while Thales Alenia Space handled the assembly and testing tasks.
Once these spacecraft are operating in medium Earth orbit, it will mark an important milestone for the Galileo program – as this is the minimum number required to provide navigational fixes, enabling full system testing for the In-Orbit Validation (IOV) phase. When complete, the Galileo constellation will consist of 30 satellites.
Arianespace has responsibility for deploying the entire Galileo constellation, utilizing a mix of its medium-lift Soyuz and heavy-lift Ariane 5 – underscoring the company’s flexibility in orbiting satellite constellations.