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Soyuz December 14, 2018

Soyuz rolls out for Arianespace’s year-ending launch that will enhance French intelligence gathering efforts

Soyuz is shown after being suspended over the launch pad by four support arms. At left is the 53-meter-tall mobile gantry, which will protect Soyuz during the integration of its “upper composite.”

The Soyuz launcher for Arianespace’s 11th and final mission in 2018 has rolled out to the launch pad in French Guiana, readying this medium-lift vehicle to receive its payload for a December 18 liftoff from the Spaceport.

Soyuz was moved from the Spaceport’s MIK launcher assembly facility to the ELS launch zone, using a transport/erector rail car in a horizontal transfer process. When positioned over the launch pad, the vehicle was erected into a vertical orientation, where it is suspended in place by four large support arms.

The mobile gantry was subsequently moved into position around the basic three-stage launcher, providing protection for the upcoming installation of Soyuz’ “upper composite,” which consists of the Fregat upper stage and payload fairing, along with the CSO-1 spacecraft passenger.

Supporting French defense requirements

Next week’s mission, which is designated Flight VS20 in Arianespace’s numbering system, will be the 20th launch of a medium-lift Soyuz from Europe’s Spaceport. It is scheduled to lift off at precisely 1:37:14 p.m. local time in French Guiana, with CSO-1 to be deployed into a Sun-synchronous orbit during a flight lasting approximately one hour. Total payload lift performance is estimated at 3,713 kg.

The CSO-1 satellite will be launched at the service of France’s CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) space agency and the DGA (Direction générale de l’armement) defense procurement agency, on behalf of the French Ministry of Defense. It will be used to take 3D pictures and to acquire very-high-resolution images in the visible and infrared bandwidths, day or night and in fair weather, and using a variety of imaging modes to meet as many operational requirements as possible.

Airbus Defence and Space France is prime contractor for the CSO satellites, while Thales Alenia Space France supplies the optical imaging instrument.

CSO-1 is the first satellite of the Optical Space Component (CSO – Composante Spatiale Optique) program, comprising a constellation of three satellites dedicated to Earth observation for defense and security. They will be placed into polar orbit at different altitudes, and will carry out two different missions: reconnaissance for CSO-1 and CSO-3, and identification for CSO-2.

Flight VS20 will close out Arianespace’s 2018 launch activity, which previously involved 10 flights from the Spaceport: six performed with Ariane 5, two utilizing the lightweight Vega and two with the medium-lift Soyuz.

The Soyuz for Arianespace Flight VS20 is erected on the Spaceport’s ELS launch pad after being transferred from the MIK assembly facility.

  • Larger versions of the photos above are available in the Gallery.


Liftoff time for Flight VS20:

French Guiana UTC Washington, D.C. Paris, France
At 01:37:14 p.m.
on Dec. 18
At 16:37:14
on Dec. 18
At 11:37:14 a.m.
on Dec. 18
At 05:37:14 p.m.
on Dec. 18


More details are available in the VS20 launch kit:

Soyuz Flight VS20
PDF / 656 KB
Soyuz November 6, 2018

Another Soyuz success: Arianespace launches Metop-C for Europe’s meteorological operational system of polar-orbiting satellites

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