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Soyuz December 13, 2011

Launcher integration is complete for Arianespace’s second Soyuz to be operated from the Spaceport

Integration of the Soyuz’ upper composite is detailed in this photo series. Its arrival on the launch pad aboard a special transport system is shown in the two images at left. Once aligned, the upper composite is hoisted to the mobile gantry’s upper level, where it is installed atop the basic three-stage Soyuz vehicle.

The launcher for Arianespace’s no. 2 Soyuz flight from French Guiana is now complete, following the integration of its “upper composite” containing the vehicle’s Fregat upper stage, the mission’s six satellite passengers and its protective payload fairing.

Mating of Soyuz’ upper composite occurred yesterday inside a large mobile service gantry with the launcher in its vertical position.  This represents the major difference in Spaceport vehicle processing with the Russian-built medium-lift workhorse compared to Soyuz operations at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia – where the launcher’s complete build-up and payload integration is handled horizontally.

All is now ready for final verifications and the countdown leading to Soyuz’ liftoff from French Guiana on Friday, December 16 at 11:03:08 p.m. local time. The payload of six passengers is composed of France’s Pléiades 1 and the Chilean SSOT – both of which are Earth observation satellites developed for civilian and defense image-gathering, along with four French ELISA micro-satellite demonstrators for defense-related electronic intelligence gathering (ELINT).

The mission will be Arianespace’s year-ending flight at the Spaceport, and comes less than two months after the company’s historic maiden launch of Soyuz from French Guiana in October.  Also scheduled in 2011 is another Soyuz launch at Baikonur Cosmodrome with six Globalstar second-generation satellites, which is scheduled during the week of December 25, and will be conducted on behalf of Arianespace by its Starsem affiliate.

To date, Arianespace has logged seven missions in 2011.  The five flights with its heavy-lift Ariane 5 during the year orbited eight telecommunications satellites (Arabsat-5C, ASTRA 1N, BSAT-3c/JCSAT-110R, GSAT-8, Intelsat New Dawn, SES-2, ST-2 and Yahsat Y1A), along with an Automated Transfer Vehicle for servicing of the International Space Station.

The year’s other two launches were Soyuz missions, one operating from Baikonur Cosmodrome with six of the Globalstar second-generation satellites, and Arianespace’s maiden flight of Soyuz from the Spaceport, which lofted two Galileo IOV (In-Orbit Validation) navigation satellites.

Soyuz December 12, 2011

Arianespace's second Soyuz is rolled out for launch at the Spaceport in French Guiana

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