Arianespace Debuts Soyuz from Guiana with Successful Galileo Satellite Launch
[Satellite News 10-21-11] Arianespace has successfully launched its first Soyuz rocket from the European Spaceport and Guiana Space Center (CSG) in Kourou, the company confirmed Oct. 21.
The debut launch carried the first two Galileo IOV-1 satellites in the Galileo constellation, which aims to provide Europe with its own independent satellite positioning and navigation system. The satellites, built for the European Space Agency (ESA) by an Astrium-led consortium, were injected into an intermediate circular orbit at an inclination of 54.7 degrees. The duration of the mission from liftoff to satellite separation was approximately 3 hours, 49 minutes and 27 seconds.
Arianespace’s “Soyuz at CSG” program commenced in 1996 with the establishment of a partnership between Europe and Russia and the subsequent creation of a joint venture, Starsem, to operate Soyuz commercial launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Arianespace Chairman and CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall said the Soyuz would play an important role in the future of Europe’s space program as the rocket gives the continent access to a well-known medium launch vehicle while allowing Russia to increase its annual production of Soyuz launchers.
Arianespace manages the supply of Russian systems and coordinates and supports the work of Russian companies during the development phase. The company also is in charge of operating Soyuz missions during the operational phase. ESA serves as the Soyuz program manager, and provides the Soyuz launch complex (ELS) to Arianespace. Russian space agency Roscosmos is in charge of the Russian segment of the program and coordinates the work of all Russian companies involved. The French space agency CNES acts as system architect for the Soyuz at CSG program and the design authority for all facilities at the space center.
“Long live cross-border partnerships!” Le Gall said in a statement. “With the launch of the first two Galileo satellites by a Soyuz rocket operating out of CSG, we have a perfect example of a successful partnership. This launch also opens a new chapter in our own history, the story of a Europe that is successful, that confirms its leadership in space, that is open and knows how to team-up with different partners."
The Ariane 5 and Soyuz will soon see another addition to the Arianespace portfolio — the Vega light, four-stage launcher, which is tailored to carry small scientific spacecraft and other lighter-weight payloads with a lift capability of 1,500 kilograms.
“With the addition of these vehicles, Arianespace is the only launch service company in the world capable of launching all types of payloads to all orbits, including communications, scientific and Earth observation satellites, constellations, cargo missions to the International Space Station and more,” said Le Gall.
The launch also is a victory for the European Commission (EC), ESA and Galileo investors, as the constellation serves as a critical junction to cohesive European space policy.
Galileo effectively started in 2005 and 2007 with Starsem’s launch of Soyuz rockets carrying the first two test-bed satellites, Giove-1 and Giove-2, or the Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element. Since then, the EC and ESA have ordered 18 Galileo satellites from the European space industry to be launched by Arianespace on Ariane 5 and Soyuz rockets. Once the system is fully operational, the Galileo system aims to generate significant economic benefits for European citizens.