Final Preparations Are Being Made At Facility In French
A 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
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.
"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
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.
Arianespace Soyuz Launch
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.