Soyuz & Vega at the Spaceport

Soyuz & Vega at the Spaceport

The first Soyuz undergoes an initial assembly checkout at the Spaceport

One of four strap-on boosters that make up Soyuz’ first stage is readied for mating with the vehicle’s Block A second stage during assembly checkout in the Spaceport’s Launcher Integration Building.  Visible on the Block A stage’s forward portion is the logo of Russia’s TsSKB-Progress, which produces the launcher at its facility in Samara.

May 7, 2010

History is being made in French Guiana as the first Soyuz undergoes its initial assembly checkout in preparation for Arianespace’s maiden commercial flight from the Spaceport in French Guiana later this year.  The activity is part of a regular maintenance check that is standard for Soyuz launchers in storage awaiting liftoff, and the build-up process also is being used to qualify assembly procedures in the Spaceport’s new Launcher Integration Building for the Russian-built medium-lift workhorse.

This is one of two Soyuz 2-1a vehicles that were delivered to French Guiana last November, and it is scheduled for launch before the end of 2010 with the HYLAS telecommunications satellite for Avanti Communications.

Once Soyuz joins Arianespace’s launcher family, this vehicle will have the unique distinction of operating from three sites worldwide: at the Spaceport in French Guiana for Arianespace’s commercial missions, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. 

Our photo report, below, highlights the first Soyuz launcher’s historic build-up at the Spaceport (Click on the images for a larger version):

Working in a staging area adjacent to the Launcher Integration Building, team members begin to transfer a Soyuz first-stage strap-on booster from its storage container.  The Launcher Integration Building, which is partially visible through its open doors, is patterned after the facilities at the Baikonur and Plesetsk Cosmodromes, and is designed for the vehicle’s integration in the horizontal position.


Suspended from the system of overhead mobile bridge cranes, the strap-on booster is moved into the Launcher Integration Building.  Soyuz utilizes four of the strap-on boosters, which are clustered around the launcher’s Block A core stage.  Also visible to the right in this photo is the Soyuz’ Block I third stage, which is resting on a horizontal jig.



This image shows three main elements of the Soyuz launcher during its assembly process.  The first stage strap-on booster is readied to be lowered onto its jig, while the Block I third stage is visible in the left foreground, and the Block A core second stage can be seen in the background.

Soyuz’ first strap-on booster is at the center of attention as a team member removes the protective covering following its installation on a purpose-built jig.  The launcher’s assembly is facilitated by a ground-based rail system, which enables the various elements to be positioned during the build-up process.  Partly visible in the background is the Block A core stage, which awaits the integration of its no. 1 strap-on booster.



This head-on view highlights the tapered/cylinder shape of the Soyuz first stage booster.  Its oxidizer tank is carried in the tapered portion, and the kerosene tank installed in the cylindrical section.  Each booster is powered by an RD-107A engine which operates on liquid oxygen and kerosene – the same propellants used on each of the Soyuz’ three main stages. The booster’s RD-107A engine has four combustion chambers and nozzles.

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