Headlines > News > Kourou is readied for Soyuz' first flight later this year

Kourou is readied for Soyuz' first flight later this year

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Fri Apr 16, 2010 6:02 am via: Arianespace
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(Arianespace) – The new Soyuz launch site in French Guiana is entering its final phase of preparations, with qualification testing of the facility’s infrastructure now underway and the construction of its 50-meter-tall mobile gantry well advanced. The inaugural flight for Arianespace’s newest addition to its launch vehicle family is anticipated in September, carrying the Avanti Communications Group’s HYLAS 1 broadband communications satellite as its payload.

Current technical qualification testing at the Soyuz facility includes validation of its launch site’s mechanical elements, such as the launch system umbilical arms and vehicles used for fueling of the Soyuz. Also being tested is the distribution network for the various gases used during a launch campaign, including air for ventilation of the launch vehicle and its payload, along with nitrogen and helium.

This panoramic photo provides an overview of the Soyuz launch zone. In the center is the launch pad with its umbilical masts and support arms for the Soyuz vehicle, surrounded by four tall lightning protection towers. To the right is the mobile gantry, while the French Guiana coastline with the Atlantic Ocean is visible in the background.

This panoramic photo provides an overview of the Soyuz launch zone. In the center is the launch pad with its umbilical masts and support arms for the Soyuz vehicle, surrounded by four tall lightning protection towers. To the right is the mobile gantry, while the French Guiana coastline with the Atlantic Ocean is visible in the background.

“We will be performing some 10 different qualification test campaigns to verify that each system works in its own element,” explained Bruno Gerard, Arianespace’s project head for Soyuz at the Spaceport.  “These campaigns will continue for the next several months, and will be followed by operational testing, which will use an actual launch vehicle to validate that everything works together.”

An aerial view offers an excellent perspective of the Soyuz launch site, including the launcher integration building in the background, along with the mobile gantry and launch pad in the foreground.  The launch pad is positioned over a 149-meter-wide X 123-meter-long flame duct, which was excavated into layers of soil and granite at the Spaceport.

An aerial view offers an excellent perspective of the Soyuz launch site, including the launcher integration building in the background, along with the mobile gantry and launch pad in the foreground. The launch pad is positioned over a 149-meter-wide X 123-meter-long flame duct, which was excavated into layers of soil and granite at the Spaceport.

In parallel activity, the Soyuz mobile gantry is nearing completion of its metal structural framework build-up. The gantry has now risen to a height of 39 meters, and ultimately will top out at over 50 meters when its roof is added. Once the framework is completed, the gantry then will receive its external metallic covering, and also be outfitted with mission support equipment, as well as the internal movable work platforms that provide access to Soyuz at various levels up to a height of 36 meters.

The gantry is one of the major differences at the Spaceport’s new home for Soyuz when compared to the workhorse vehicle’s long-existing launch sites at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.

It allows for the vertical installation of payloads on the launch vehicle – which is typical in Western operations, rather than the horizontal procedures used in Soyuz operations from the Baikonur and Plesetsk Cosmodromes.  The gantry also provides a protected environment for the launcher, and enables customer access to the payload when required prior to final countdown.

Construction of the gantry is managed by the French CNES space agency (which oversees operations and infrastructure at the Spaceport), and includes Rheinmetall Italy, along with KBOM General Engineering Design Bureau and MIR – two of the Russian companies involved in developing the new Soyuz launch site.

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