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By | October 22, 2007

      Soyuz Lifts Four Satellites For Globalstar, Arianespace Announces

      A Soyuz lifter rushed four satellites into orbit for Globalstar, rising from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Arianespace announced.

      It was the 12th consecutive successful flight for Starsem, an Arianespace affiliate.

      Following an on-time departure from Baikonur, the Soyuz accurately injected its Globalstar satellite cluster into the targeted 920-km low Earth orbit.

      It was the 1,726th launch of a Soyuz family vehicle, and the ninth Soyuz flight this year.

      Globalstar was the first Starsem customer, and this latest mission was the eighth Soyuz flight performed for the California-based provider of mobile satellite voice and data services.

      Six Starsem launches in 1999 lofted a total 24 Globalstar satellites — one-half of the original constellation. They were followed by a mission last May with four more spacecraft. The latest launch provided the additional four satellites to augment the Globalstar constellation through the introduction of its second-generation satellites.

      The Globalstar/Soyuz launch services relationship will continue, as Globalstar recently signed with Arianespace to launch all of its second-generation satellites beginning in 2009.

      For these future missions, Soyuz will be operated from its new launch site at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, with each of four vehicles carrying a cluster of six satellites per mission. Globalstar also reserved options for four more Soyuz flights, enabling it to add a second batch of 24 satellites to the new constellation.

      During the latest mission, the Starsem launch vehicle Fregat upper stage was ignited twice, positioning it for deployment of the dispenser-mounted Globalstar satellites beginning at 1 hour and 42 minutes after liftoff.

      The top-mounted spacecraft was released first, followed two-and-a-half minutes later by the three satellites, which had been installed vertically around the dispenser’s center post.

      With this latest flight, the Arianespace launcher family continues its sustained mission rate this year. In addition to two Starsem missions with the medium-lift Soyuz from Baikonur Cosmodrome, the Arianespace heavyweight Ariane 5 has flown four times this year from Europe’s Spaceport, orbiting eight telecommunications satellites.

      Two more Ariane 5 launches are planned before year-end, carrying an additional four payloads. ?Starsem will continue its launch activity in the coming months with a manifest that includes orbiting the Canadian Radarsat-2 observation satellite and the European Giove-B navigation spacecraft.

      Soyuz Spacecraft Brings Expedition 15 Space Station Crew Safely Back To Earth

      A Soyuz Russian spacecraft safely returned to Earth the Expedition 15 crew members of the International Space Station.?After bidding farewell to the Expedition 16 crew, the Expedition 15 crew — Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Oleg Kotov — boarded their Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraft for the return to Earth.

      But the return involved a steep, abrupt "ballistic descent" instead of a more gradual controlled descent, according to NASA, with the capsule finally landing about 210 miles west of the normal landing site.

      They undocked from the station around 3:14 a.m. ET Sunday and landed in the steppes of Kazakhstan at 6:36 a.m. ET

      Joining the Expedition 15 crew members for the journey home was a space tourist, spaceflight participant Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, a Malaysian flying under an agreement with the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos).

      He arrived at the station with the Soyuz that transported the Expedition 16 crew to the space station, Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko, on Oct 12.

      At a change of command ceremony, the Expedition 15 crew formally handed over command of the station to Expedition 16.

      Accepting command of the station from Yurchikhin, Whitson remarked, "It’s been a very impressive mission, and you guys have performed exceptionally."

      Flight Engineer Clay Anderson, who joined Expedition 15 in June, will remain onboard as a member of Expedition 16, until his replacement, astronaut Dan Tani, arrives on the STS-120 Mission of Space Shuttle Discovery, which launches tomorrow. (Please see separate story in this issue.)

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