- Soyuz Flight VS09
Arianespace's workhorse Soyuz vehicle marked another "mission accomplished" from French Guiana today - lofting two milestone Galileo spacecraft - as the company once again supported the space ambitions of Europe.
Lifting off from the Spaceport at precisely 9:27:11 a.m., the medium-lift Soyuz performed a successful mission of nearly 3 hours and 48 minutes to deploy "Doresa" and "Milena," which are the first two FOC (Full Operational Capability) satellites for Europe's Galileo navigation system.
After an initial powered phase of Soyuz' three lower stages, Flight VS09 included two burns of the Fregat upper stage - separated by a three-plus-hour ballistic phase - to place these two 700-kg.-class Galileo satellites at their targeted deployment point.
At full capability, the Galileo program will provide a European-operated navigation system to deliver highly accurate global positioning services through a satellite constellation in medium Earth orbit and its associated ground infrastructure. The European Commission is funding and executing Galileo's FOC phase, with the European Space Agency (ESA) designated as the
system's development and sourcing agent.
During post-launch comments from the Spaceport, Arianespace Chairman and CEO Stphane Isral said today's mission reaffirms the company's "raison d'tre:" guaranteeing independent, reliable and available access to space for European governments and institutions.
"Arianespace and Soyuz have now provided new momentum to the Galileo constellation with the launch of the first two Full Operational Capability satellites," Isral added.
The successful Flight VS09 mission continues the key role of Arianespace - and Soyuz - in Galileo's deployment. This medium-lift workhorse lofted a total of four satellites in the program's IOV (In-Orbit Validation) phase in 2011 and 2012, plus the initial two FOC platforms orbited today from the Spaceport; along with two GIOVE (Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element)
satellites on separate flights operated in 2005 and 2008 by the company's Starsem affiliate from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Following a launch agreement signed this week at the Spaceport with ESA on the European Commission's behalf, Arianespace will step up the navigation system's deployment with 12 total satellites to be launched by three dedicated Ariane 5 ES vehicles from 2015 onwards.
As a result, all 22 spacecraft in this FOC series will be orbited on eight Arianespace missions - covering five Soyuz flights with two satellites each (including today's VS09 success, and another liftoff scheduled at the beginning of December); along with three Ariane 5 launches, carrying clusters of four Galileo spacecraft each.
Didier Faivre, ESA Director of the Galileo Program and Navigation-Related Activities, thanked Arianespace for its excellent service with Flight VS09, and also recognized the Russian industry team responsible for the Soyuz vehicle.
In announcing that initial data was received from the two Galileo FOC satellites shortly after being deployed by Soyuz, Faivre added: "It was a wonderful [launch] campaign; you've seen the spirit of the team, which was perfect. We're in good hands...and we'll be back with the 20 satellites that are ahead of us to launch."
Daniel Calleja Crespo, the European Commission's Director General for Enterprise & Industry, said Arianespace's mission success "turns a dream into reality" by marking a major step forward for the world's first civilian-run global navigation system, which will serve European Union citizens and enterprises. "This is truly an historic and emotional moment," he added.
Along with Galileo, Arianespace's contribution to Europe's major space initiatives also includes the Copernicus Earth observation program, for which Soyuz lofted the first spacecraft - Sentinel-1A - in April of this year on Flight VS07. The company has also been selected to loft Sentinel-1B on a Soyuz flight from French Guiana scheduled for 2016.
"I want to express my gratitude to the European Union and the European Commission for having chosen Arianespace as a key partner for its ambitious Copernicus and Galileo flagship space programs," Isral said.
Doresa and Milena - named after the respective German and Estonian winners of a European Commission children's art competition - were built by prime-contractor OHB System of Germany, with the spacecraft's navigation payloads supplied by the UK'sSurrey Satellite Technology Ltd.
Marking another "first" on today's Soyuz Flight VS09, these initial Galileo spacecraft were the first-ever OHB-built satellites lofted by Arianespace - a partnership that will continue to grow, as OHB System is responsible for building all 22 Galileo satellites in this series of the program's FOC phase.
Following Flight VS09, Arianespace has now operated seven successful flights in 2014 across its complete launcher family. This year's activity to date includes three Soyuz and Ariane 5 flights each, along with one mission performed by Vega.
"Today, with this seventh launch of the year, Arianespace has taken another important step towards its operational objective for 2014," Isral said. "I want to repeat our aim: delivering 12 launches from the Guiana Space Centre this year. It is a very ambitious goal, but this goal is definitely reachable. Thanks to all of the teams that are helping us reach this great
Announced following today's launch, the company's next mission - designated Ariane 5 Flight VA218 - is a targeted for a September 11 liftoff with two passengers: Malaysia-based MEASAT's MEASAT-3b, and the Optus 10 spacecraft for Australia's Optus.
NOTE TO EDITORS: High-resolution imagery from the mission is available to journalists with verified access to the Arianespace Press center.
Follow Arianespace's launch activity at: www.arianespace.com.