Soyuz launch facility nears completion

6 October 2010

The Soyuz launch site at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou has now entered its final phase of preparations, with qualification tests of the new facilities under way. The Soyuz launch site is located in the northwest part of the Guiana Space Centre (CSG).

It consists of three main zones: the launch platform, made up of a five-level reinforced concrete structure, the preparation area, where the three stages will be assembled horizontally and checked, and the launch control centre.

The Soyuz performance will perfectly complement that of the Ariane and Vega launchers, and increase the competitiveness and flexibility of the exploitation of Ariane in the commercial market. The first Soyuz flight from Kourou is set for the first quarter of 2011.

Construction of the new Soyuz launch facility

View of the Soyuz launch platform from the flame pit. This five-level reinforced concrete structure houses mission equipment. The top two levels have 15 m-wide openings for the launch table and the erected Soyuz vehicle. Its upper area accommodates the pad infrastructure, including the service tower, the fuelling booms and the erector.

Soyuz launch site

The launch site in Kourou is almost identical to the other Soyuz facilities in Kazakhstan and Russia. The most visible difference is a mobile gantry, which allows payloads to be installed on the launcher vertically. The structure of the mobile gantry is now complete and the metallic siding installed. Its total height is 52 m to the top of its curved roof, and its internal movable work platforms provide access to the launcher at various levels up to a height of 36 m. The gantry is a lightweight structure: about 800 t.

The gantry provides a protected environment for the installation of payloads, as well as for the checkout of fully-integrated vehicles. Its parked position is 80 m from the launch platform.

Soyuz launch facility

The launcher assembly and testing building (монтажно-испытательный корпус; montazhno-ispytatelniy korpus – MIK) is where the preparation activities for the three-stage Soyuz launcher and the Fregat upper stage will take place. A 700 m-long railway leading to the launch platform will be used for the horizontal rollout of Soyuz launch vehicles on their erector.

Soyuz launch facility

The first Soyuz for launch from the Spaceport has been assembled in the MIK. The vehicle will then be transferred to the launch pad in the horizontal position on a rail-mounted erector (left). At the pad, the erector will raise the Soyuz into the upright position.

Soyuz launch facility

A Fregat model in the Payload Preparation Building S3B for rehearsing the preparation of this upper stage.

The Soyuz configuration to be operated from the Spaceport is the Soyuz 2, also known as the Soyuz ST. The Fregat extends the launcher’s access to a full range of orbits, including medium-Earth orbit, Sun-synchronous orbit, geostationary transfer orbit and Earth-escape trajectories.

Soyuz launch facility

Located behind the assembly building is the ‘Control Centre’, the only building in the Soyuz launch zone that is occupied during final countdown and liftoff. This three-storey facility houses equipment, consoles and offices for the mission control team.

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