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October 19, 2011
If all goes well tomorrow, Arianespace (News - Alert) will conduct its first launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket from its spaceport in French Guiana. The October 20 VS01 mission is scheduled to put two Galileo engineering verification satellites into orbit.
Arianespace conducted a full dress rehearsal for the mission on October 18, including a simulation of telemetry streams from the Soyuz rocket and its Fregat upper stage. The fully integrated Soyuz and its payload is currently on its pad and undergoing final preparation procedures.
Liftoff of the Soyuz is scheduled around 6:34 AM ET. The pair of Galileo IOV (In-Orbit Validation) satellites will be put into a 23,222 kilometer orbit with an inclination of 54.7 degrees. Two more IOV satellites will be put into orbit by a Soyuz rocket in 2012 to be the first of a full 30 satellite navigation constellation. Both IOV satellites were built by a consortium lead by EADS (News - Alert) Astrium with Thales Alenia Space.
Developed by the European Space Agency and European Union, the Galileo network is designed to provide global positioning services independent of the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) and Russia's Glonass network. Galileo will provide four basic services, ranging from an open and free signal providing positioning accuracy down to 1 meter to a paid service for commercial navigation that is expected to provide centimeter-level accuracy.
The medium-lift Soyuz launcher has been the workhorse of Russian launch efforts since 1966, used to for putting the manned Soyuz spacecraft into orbit, launch unmanned Progress supply freighters to the International Space Station (ISS) and for commercial launches sold by Starsem and Arianespace. It is a three stage rocket that uses RP-1 kerosene and liquid oxygen fuel, while the Fregat upper stage that uses UDMH and nitrogen peroxide.
Arianespace added the medium-lift Soyuz rocket to complement its heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket. When launched from French Guiana, it is capable of putting up to 3,150 kilograms into geostationary transfer orbit. In the future, Arianespace plans to add an adapter to the baseline configuration to support up to four deployable microsats weighing up to 200 kilograms plus a fifth payload of up to 400 kilograms inside the adapter.
Launching from French Guiana provides an additional free boost for launches due to the proximity to the equator and the spin of the earth. Soyuz has been traditionally launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, at a latitude of roughly 46 degrees North. French Guiana is at about five degrees North latitude, so there's a substantial "kick" when launching from the spaceport.
Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for TMCnet and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.
Edited by Rich Steeves