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Soyuz May 23, 2013

Soyuz integration is fully underway for Arianespace’s milestone launch with four O3b Networks satellites

The upper and lower segments of Soyuz’ core second stage are mated in the Spaceport’s MIK launcher integration building (photo at left). The distinctive “hammerhead” shape enables Soyuz’ four second-stage boosters to be clustered around the core stage, as shown during the installation process in the photo at right.

The Soyuz launcher for Arianespace’s next medium-lift mission is rapidly taking shape at French Guiana as this vehicle undergoes its build-up for a June flight with the first four satellites in O3b Networks’ connectivity constellation.

During activity this week in the Spaceport’s MIK launcher integration building for Soyuz, the vehicle’s core second stage was completed with the mating of its upper and lower sections.  Today, team members installed two of Soyuz’ four first-stage boosters, which are clustered around the core stage.

These integration steps are performed with the Soyuz aligned in horizontal jigs positioned with the MIK facility’s floor-level rail system, and will be followed by mating of the launcher’s centerline third stage.

Once completed, the Soyuz will be ready for its rollout to the Spaceport’s ELS launch pad, where it will be raised to the vertical position – preparing it for integration of the O3b Networks satellite payload, performed with the protection of a 53-meter-tall mobile gantry.

The O3b Networks satellites to be orbited on Arianespace’s June 24 mission were built by Thales Alenia Space, and are to be positioned at a medium-Earth orbit altitude of 8,063 km.   Operating in Ka-band, these spacecraft will become part of O3b Networks’ system that offers high-speed, low-cost, low-latency Internet and telecommunications services for customers in emerging markets.

This Soyuz flight will be Arianespace’s fifth with the medium-lift vehicle from the Spaceport since its introduction at French Guiana in October 2011.  Soyuz is part of the company’s complete launcher family, which also includes the heavyweight Ariane 5 and light-lift Vega.

In addition to the first batch of O3b spacecraft to be lofted during the June mission, another Arianespace flight is scheduled to orbit four more later this year for O3b Networks, followed by an additional four in 2014.

Soyuz May 20, 2013

Readying Arianespace’s first mission for O3b Networks: Launcher and payload integration are underway at the Spaceport

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