Flight VS25: Focus on Arianespace’s concluding mission in a successful year for Soyuz
Arianespace’s launch activity in 2020 wrapped up with the 25th Soyuz flight conducted to date from French Guiana – completing a year that underscored this medium-lift launcher’s flexibility at the service of both commercial and institutional customers.
Performed on December 29, Flight VS25 orbited France’s CSO-2 satellite for defense and security applications – bringing Arianespace’s 2020 Soyuz missions to five, which were performed from a total of three different launch bases: the Spaceport in French Guiana, Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome; and Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
This photo feature provides a close-up perspective during Flight VS25’s final countdown and the launcher’s ascent from French Guiana. (Photo credit: Activité Optique Vidéo du CNES/CSG):
The Soyuz launcher for Flight VS25 is partially visible as its 52-meter-tall mobile gantry is opened prior to roll-back from the launch pad. A protected environment is provided by the gantry for payload installation and the launcher’s refueling after Soyuz has been raised to the vertical position. This process also is used at the new Vostochny Cosmodrome launch facility – where another purpose-built mobile gantry has been put in service for Soyuz missions.
A photographer’s-eye view inside the mobile gantry shows Flight VS25’s Soyuz as it is suspended by four support arms – positioning it over the massive flame trench at the Spaceport’s ELS launch complex. Two of the four boosters that comprise Soyuz’ first stage are visible, clustered around the launcher’s second stage central core. Having been fueled with ultra-cold liquid oxygen propellant, the boosters have turned a frosty white. Fueling of the launcher began at 4 hours, 30 minutes before liftoff.
Flight VS25’s fully-assembled Soyuz is revealed for the first time as the service gantry begins the rollback to its parked location 80 meters from the launch pad. This picture highlights the four support arms in position around the second stage central core. Also shown are the umbilical masts that service the launcher and CSO-2 satellite payload. These masts are retracted in sequence, beginning at 2 minutes, 24 seconds before liftoff.
France’s CSO-2 satellite and the Soyuz launcher’s Fregat upper stage are encapsulated in the 11.4-meter-tall ST payload fairing, which is adorned with a stylized decal depicting the Earth observation spacecraft in orbit, along with logos for the CSO-2 program’s key participants. The ST fairing is an enlarged version utilized on Arianespace’s Soyuz missions from the Spaceport, as well as the Baikonur and Vostochny Cosmodomes. Jettisoning of the fairing occurs 4 minutes after liftoff – when the launcher has ascended through the Earth atmosphere’s denser layers.
Liftoff! This photo captures Soyuz as it climbs away from the ELS launch complex, which is situated in the Spaceport’s northwestern sector near the town of Sinnamary. With the CSO-2 spacecraft’s orbiting on Flight VS25, the combined total payload lift performance of Arianespace’s five Soyuz missions performed during 2020 surpassed the 22,500 kg. mark – with a total of 106 satellites deployed in low-Earth and Sun-synchronous orbits.