Satellite Launch Infrastructure

Building the Soyuz launch facility at Europes Spaceport

Activity is continuing at the Guiana Space Centre (Centre Spatial Guyanais CSG), Europes Spaceport in French Guiana, as the Soyuz launch site takes shape. Soyuz is a medium-class launcher and its performance will perfectly complement that of the other ESA launchers, Ariane and Vega.

On the spaceports new launch pad, the infrastructure that maintains Soyuz in its erected position prior to launch is being completed. In the nearby launcher assembly and testing building, ground support equipment for Soyuz integration is being prepared.

This new launch facility for the venerable Soyuz vehicle is located 12 kilometres northwest of the existing Ariane 5 launch complex, extending the spaceports operational zone further up the French Guiana coastline.

Horizontal rollout

The horizontal transfer of Soyuz launchers at Europes Spaceport in French Guiana will follow the same basic procedures used for Soyuz operations at Baikonur Cosmodrome. The image shows the rollout of the Soyuz FG launcher and Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft that lifted off from the cosmodrome on 27 May 2009 with a three-member crew for the International Space Station.

Soyuz launch system approaches completion

Wide-angle view of the almost-complete Soyuz launch system. The four primary support arms are shown in their closed position. Directly behind the two rear support arms is the set of umbilical masts that will service the Soyuz Block A core stage, its Block I third stage, the Fregat upper stage and the payload. Visible below in the launch tables 15-metre diameter circular opening are four triangular guides that will be connected to the four strap-on boosters providing stability for the suspended vehicle until liftoff. The two other arms extending into the opening carry electrical umbilicals for the Soyuz boosters and the Block A core stage.

Soyuz launch table opening

The erected Soyuz will be positioned inside this 15-meter diameter circular opening on the launch table. Four triangular guides can be seen positioned around the inner wall of the opening. These will be connected to the four strap-on boosters providing stability for the suspended vehicle until liftoff. Two other arms carry electrical umbilicals to the launcher.

Soyuz service cabin

A platform known as the Soyuz service cabin is located beneath the upper level of the launch table. Here, it is shown in the retracted position, which moves the cabin free of the circular opening for the final countdown, engine ignition and liftoff. The service cabin contains ground support equipment and provides access to the launchers lower portion.

Launch pad viewed from the flame pit

The four-level reinforced concrete structure that serves as the Soyuz launch pad viewed from the far side of the flame pit. The configuration shown here is the same as used on the other Soyuz launch facilities at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and Russias Plesetsk Cosmodrome. A difference with the installation at CSG will be the addition of a mobile gantry, which will be employed for payload integration with the Soyuz erected in its vertical position.

Lightning protection towers

The Soyuz launch pad is surrounded by four lightning protection towers, which are a feature of all the pads at CSG. The picture also shows the Soyuz launch system in the ready position with the four support arms closed and the two umbilical masts raised to service the medium-lift vehicle. A recently added element is the facilitys system of floodlights, which are installed on four masts positioned around the launch pad.

Umbilical masts on the launch pad

The two umbilical masts on the Soyuz launch pad, shown in the raised position. The shorter, blue-coloured mast is for the Soyuz vehicles Block A core stage. It is straddled by the larger mast, which provides fluids and electrical connections for the launchers Block I third stage, the Fregat upper stage and the payload.

Transporter/erector system

The rail-mounted transporter/erector system inside the MIK. The Soyuz launch vehicle is integrated and transferred to the launch pad in the horizontal position. At the pad, the erector raises the Soyuz into the upright position.

The transporter/erector system for Soyuz inside the MIK. Once the Soyuz launch vehicles integration is completed in a horizontal position inside the MIK, the launcher is lifted onto the transporter/erector by two overhead cranes (one of which is partially visible in the upper background).

Personnel working on the coupler connection for the rail tug that will push the transporter/erector carrying the Soyuz launch vehicle from the launcher assembly and testing building to the launch pad. The transporter/erector will exit through doors at the far end of the building. On top of the transporter/erector is a large, yellow circular structure that supports the Soyuz when the launcher is rolled out in its horizontal position.

Transporter/erector test apparatus

Testing of the Soyuz transporter/erector will be carried out using this apparatus, which represents the dimensions of the lower part of the Soyuz launch vehicle. The two semi-circular panels in the foreground replicate the contact interface between two of the launchers lower strap-on boosters on the transporter/erector.

Railway infrastructure

The railway infrastructure that supports Soyuz operations on the launch pad. In the foreground is a straight section of track that leads to the MIK, which will be used for the rollout of Soyuz launch vehicles on their transporter/erector. The curved portion of track (visible coming from the right) will be used for a railway tanker that brings kerosene propellant for fuelling of the four Soyuz boosters and Block A core stage. An additional load of kerosene that is maintained at a lower temperature will be delivered by truck for fueling of the Soyuz Block I third stage.

Soyuz primary support arms

The four primary support arms that suspend Soyuz over its launch pad, shown in the open position. During launcher checkout and final countdown, these arms are closed around the Soyuz, forming a support ring at the vehicles waist. At liftoff, the upward movement of the launch vehicle decreases the load on the support arms, allowing them to swing outward under the influence of counterweights located at their base.

Close-up view of one of the four primary support arms, taken from inside the launch table. The upper, v-shaped portion serves as a segment of the support ring for Soyuz and also serves as a work platform to provide ground crews access to the launch vehicle.

The four main support arms for Soyuz, after their installation on the launch pad.

A crane installs counterweights at the base of one of the four Soyuz support arms. When this ingenious support arm concept was originally developed for the Soyuz launch vehicle family, its designers gave it the nickname tulip. This refers to the tilt-back movement of its four petals which begins when the arms are opened by the upward motion of the launch vehicle, followed by their tracking outward with the force provided by their counterweights.

Close-up view of the installation of the counterweights at the base of one of the support arms on the Soyuz launch pad.

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