Countdown Begins for First Soyuz Launch From South America as Vega Debut Slips

Checking in on activities down at the European spaceport in Kourou, we find the rocket base is abuzz with activity. On Wednesday, an Ariane 5 successfully delivered two communications satellites to space. It was the rocket’s fifth mission of 2011; one more and it will match the number flown last year, which ended with Arianespace actually losing money.

Meanwhile, preparations are well along for the first Soyuz launch from the spaceport on Oct. 20. The venerable Russian rocket will launch the first two satellites in Europe’s Galileo navigational constellation.

And in related news, officials announced this week that the debut of Europe’s new Vega small satellite launcher will be delayed until January. It had been set to launch from Kourou in November or December.


Russia Successfully Tests Upper Stage for Soyuz, Angara

Test of Russian RD-0124 engine. Credit: Roscosmos

Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin was in Voronezh over the weekend where he witnessed the test of an upper stage engine destined to fly aboard Soyuz and Angara rockets.

On Saturday, Popovkin visited the Khimavtomatiki Design Bureau and Voronezh Mechanical Plant, where engineers successfully fired the RD-0124 engine on a test stand. The kerosene/LOX engine is slated to fly aboard a Soyuz 2-1b rocket carrying a GLONASS-K spacecraft at the end of this year. It also will be used on Soyuz-ST-B that will begin flying from Kourou this fall.

A modified version of the engine will be used on the new Angara rocket being developed by Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre. That rocket is scheduled to make its first test flights in 2013.

According to a Roscosmos report, Popovkin said that the Voronezh KBKhA will have many engine orders by 2020 for both civilian and military launches.

Russia to Spend $6 Billion on New Spaceport, Rocket and Human Spacecraft

Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov

Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov told the media that Russia will spend $6 billion through 2015 to build its new Vostochny spaceport and to develop replacements for the Soyuz rocket and spacecraft, Interfax reports.

“The total cost of building a promising manned transport system, a new space rocket complex, Rus-M, the ground processing facility will be about 180 billion rubles by 2015,” he said.

Perminov said that the new Rus-M rocket being developed by TsSKB Progress will be capable of launching up to 24 metric tons into orbit. The new rocket will be tested in 2015, with human launches of a new six-person spacecraft being built by RSC Energia planned to begin in 2018. Designs for the new rocket and spacecraft were drawn up last year.


Energia Pleased With 2010, Looks Ahead to Busy New Year

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft in orbit

Dec. 30, 2010

An enlarged Board of Directors meeting was held at S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, where the President and General Designer of the Corporation V.A. Lopota reviewed the company performance in 2010 and set tasks for 2011.

The corporation has fulfilled its annual work plan, including an intensive plan of activities under International Space Station Program including the launch of four manned spacecraft Soyuz TMA and the launch of Russian research module Rassvet. Flight tests of the new-series Soyuz TMA spacecraft has begun. Three upper stages of the Block DM type have been built and delivered for launching navigation satellites under Glonass program. Work has been continuing on the development of unmanned spacecraft and systems for various customers.


French President Honors Roscosmos’ Perminov for Soyuz Guiana Contributions

Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov (right) with ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain. (Credit: Roscosmos)


In accordance with the Resolution of the French President, Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov is awarded with Honored Legion Order of the Republic of France for his outstanding contribution into the Soyuz and Guiana Space Center project.

The European Space Agency (ESA) set up the program “Soyuz at the Guiana Space Center (CSG)” to bolster collaboration with Russia on launch vehicles. The program is organized as follows:

  • ESA is contracting authority and program manager and provides the Soyuz Launch Complex facilities to Arianespace.
  • Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) bears overall responsibility for the program on the Russian side, and coordinates the activities of the Russian industry involved in the program.
  • French space agency CNES is project prime contractor and system architect for the Soyuz launch system at CSG.
  • Arianespace is responsible for the supply of Russian systems to CSG, coordination and support of the Russian activities for the development phase. Arianespace will be the Soyuz-ST launch operator at CSG for the operational phase.

Ariane Readied for 200th Launch, Soyuz Heads Toward 1,800

Ariane 5 ECA for flight V184 climb away from the Guiana Space Centre on the evening of 7 July 2008.


Basic build-up of the milestone 200th Ariane for launch is now complete at the Spaceport, marking a new milestone in preparations for an Ariane 5 mission that will loft a European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) next February to service the International Space Station.

During activity in the Spaceport’s Launcher Integration Building, the Ariane 5 ES version of Arianespace’s heavy-lift workhorse was fitted with its equipment bay, followed by installation of the EPS upper stage.

With these steps completed, the Ariane 5 is ready for transfer to the Final Assembly Building, where the ATV – named after German astronomer/mathematician Johannes Kepler – will be installed.  The Final Assembly Building currently is occupied by an Ariane 5 ECA launcher version, which is waiting to receive its payload of the HISPASAT 1E and KOREASAT 6 telecommunications satellites for a liftoff scheduled on December 28 from French Guiana.


Produced by Rocket Center Progress of Samara (TsSKB-Progress), Soyuz rocket marked its 1765th successful mission on Dec. 15,  TsSKB-Progress DG Alexander Kirilin said at Baikonur. To remind, Soyuz-FG modification injected into orbit Soyuz TMA-20 vehicle with three crew on Dec. 15, at 22.09 MSK.

Kirilin noted that 5 Soyuz modifications are in operation by the Russian Space Industry.

Soyuz-FG is featured by reliability ratio of 0,952.

Another ‘brother’-rocket in the Soyuz family, Soyuz-ST, is slated for its maiden launch from European space port in French Guiana next year.

Soyuz Prepares for its South American Debut

Both Soyuz launchers currently at the Spaceport are shown inside the MIK Launcher Integration Building. The #2 Soyuz now has its four first-stage strap-on boosters installed on the central core. Next to it is the other Soyuz, which was built up earlier this year with the integration of its first, second and third stages – and is installed on the transporter/erector rail car. (Credit: Arianespace)


The second of two Soyuz launchers in French Guiana is undergoing assembly as part of regular maintenance checks that are standard for the Russian-built vehicles in storage awaiting liftoff.

In activity at the Spaceport’s new Soyuz Launcher Integration Building – known by its Russian “MIK” designation – this vehicle’s four first-stage strap-on boosters have been integrated with the Block A core second stage, allowing propulsion system pneumatic testing to be conducted while the vehicle is installed in horizontal jigs.


Spend Thanksgiving With NASA

Soyuz rocket


NASA Television will air the Thanksgiving Day return to Earth of three crew members from the International Space Station and the preparation, launch and docking of the newest trio of station residents three weeks later.

Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin, NASA Expedition 25 Commander Doug Wheelock and NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker are scheduled to land in the Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft on the northern steppe of Kazakhstan on Nov. 25 (Nov. 26 local time).

On Dec. 15, Soyuz Commander Dmitry Kondratyev, NASA Flight Engineer Cady Coleman and European Space Agency Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft (Dec. 16 Baikonur time). They will join NASA Expedition 26 Commander Scott Kelly and Russian Flight Engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka, who have been aboard the station since early October.

Wheelock will hand over command of the station to Kelly at 3 p.m. CST on Nov. 24.


India Update: Soyuz Flight, Cryo Engines and the Stuxnet Worm

A few brief updates on the Indian space program:

  • RIA Novosti reports that ISRO has nixed a proposal for a solo Soyuz flight that would include two Indian astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut. The mission would be an intermediate step toward India’s effort to launch astronauts aboard its own vehicle. India still wants to cooperate with Russia on human spaceflight. (Via Roscosmos website)
  • Spaceflight Now has a somewhat speculative story about whether ISRO will seek Russian help on its 17-year effort to develop an indigenous cryogenic upper stage. That help could include technical assistance or purchasing additional engines (India has bought seven already). The article notes that the U.S. recently dropped anti-proliferation sanctions against Russia’s Glavkosmos in 1988 that prohibited technical cooperation. ISRO’s attempt to launch its first cryogenic stage failed in April when the engine failed to ignite.
  • ISRO officials have ruled out the possibility that the Insat-4 B satellite was partially crippled by the Stuxnet internet worm, The Economic Times reports. Twelve of the satellites 24  transponders shut down, apparently due to a power glitch.

Russian Design Bureau Nears Verification on New Soyuz Engine

Soyuz rocket

Russia’s Chemical Automatics Design Bureau (KBKhA) “have almost completed validation and verification of the RD-0124 engine to be used on Soyuz-2-1b carrier,” according to a story on the Roscosmos website. “Governmental acceptance of the engine is the next step.”

The new RD-0124 upper-stage engine increases the Soyuz rocket’s capacity by 1 metric ton. It will be used on Soyuz commercial launches out of French Guiana that are set to begin next year.

A variant of the engine, the RD-0124А, will be used on the new family of Angara rocket that is being designed by the Khrunichev Space Center. “The validation of this engines is also coming close to a significant stage – the first stage firing tests are to be carried out soon,” the report states.

The Angara, which is set to be a mainstay for Russian military launches, has been repeatedly postponed due to funding issues. The first test launch is now scheduled for 2013.


Arianespace CEO Confident of Continued Satellite Growth

Ariane 5 ECA for flight V184 climb away from the Guiana Space Centre on the evening of 7 July 2008.


Arianespace is poised to build on its successful 30-year track record as the world’s leading launch services provider – benefitting from a robust payload order book that ensures more than three years of mission activity, and supported by the extension of its launcher family with the introduction of Soyuz and Vega during 2011 at the Spaceport in French Guiana.

This was the outlook provided by Chairman & CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall at Arianespace’s traditional 2010 World Space Business Week conference press breakfast in Paris, where he provided an overview of the company’s activity and offered his perspective on the satellite market’s future.


Soyuz Rockets Depart for South America Spaceport

Soyuz rocket
Soyuz rocket


The first two Soyuz launchers have left Russia for the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana (northern part of South America). The legendary Russian launcher will lift off from its new launch pad, now being completed, for the first time in 2010.

The two Soyuz launchers left St. Petersburg today aboard the MN Colibri, which is one of two ships used by Arianespace to transport Ariane launch vehicles from their European manufacturing sites to French Guiana.  The ship will arrive in a port near Kourou, French Guiana, in about two weeks.


First Soyuz to Fly from Kourou in April 2010


Russian Soyuz-ST rocket launch from Kourou set for April 2010
RIA Novosti

The first launch of Russia’s Soyuz-ST carrier rocket from the Kourou space center in French Guiana has been scheduled for the beginning of April 2010, general director of the Progress design bureau said on Tuesday.

Soyuz-ST is a modernized version of the Soyuz-2 rocket developed by the Samara-based Progress design bureau specifically for launches from Kourou.

“Next year at the start of April we must ensure the first launch of a Soyuz-ST [carrier rocket]; the first three rockets are ready,” Alexander Kirilin said, adding that a ship carrying two rockets will leave the port in St. Petersburg on November 1.

Read the full story.