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Soyuz in Kourou

Anatomy of the Soyuz launch complex in Kourou


History of the Soyuz complex in Kourou





Soyuz-ST flies its 6th mission with Galileo satellites

During its sixth mission to launch navigation satellites for the European Galileo network, on March 27, 2015, the Soyuz ST rocket delivered a pair of Full Operational Capacity Mission 2 (FOC M2), satellites No. 7 and No. 8. It became the second of five Soyuz missions delivering FOC satellites and the first of three such launches scheduled for 2015.

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Initial launch profile of the Soyuz-ST rocket (mission VS 11) with Galileo FOC M2 satellites in March 2015. Credit: Arianespace

Mission profile of the Soyuz-ST rocket (mission VS11) with Galileo FOC M2 satellites in March 2015. Credit: Arianespace

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Sixth Galileo mission (VS11) in March 2015

The liftoff of the Soyuz-ST-B rocket from the ELS pad near Kourou, French Guiana, took place as scheduled on March 27, 2015, at 6:46:18 p.m. local time (21:46 UTC, 05:46 p.m. EST). The 11th Soyuz launch from Guiana (under designation VS11) carried a total of 1,597 kilograms of payload, including 1,428 kilograms for a pair of Galileo FOC M2 satellites nick-named Adam and Anastasia.

Flight profile

According to Arianespace, which manages this mission for the European Space Agency, the powered phase of the first, second and third stages on Soyuz was to last about nine minutes. The third stage of the launcher will then be separated from the upper
composite, comprising the Fregat upper stage and the two satellites. The three lower stages and the fairing will fall back into the sea.

After a first burn, the upper composite is spinned during a ballistic phase lasting about three hours and 15 minutes. Then, Fregat will ignite its own engine to bring the upper composite to an orbit over the Earth. At a pre-determined point of this orbit, Fregat will ignite a second burn lasting four minutes to reach the circular orbit of separation. At the end of the mission, the Fregat upper stage will be deactivated.

The entire orbital insertion process is expected to conclude three hours, 47 minutes after the liftoff with the release of the satellites into a 23,522-kilometer orbit with an inclination 55.04 degrees toward the Equator.

The satellites will later use their own propulsion system to lower their altitude in order to enter their operational orbit.


Galileo FOC M2 launch sequence on March 27, 2015:

Time (h:min:sec)
Beginning of the State Commission meeting for launcher fueling authorization
Beginning of Launch Vehicle fueling with propellant components.
Launch Vehicle is fueled with all propellant components
Mobile gantry withdrawal
Key on start (beginning of Soyuz synchronized sequence)
Fregat transfer to onboard power supply
Upper Composite umbilical drop off command
Ground-board power transfer
Lower stage mast retraction
Preliminary thrust level
Full thrust level
Jettisoning of boosters
Jettisoning of fairing
Separation of main stage
Separation of 3rd stage
Fregat 1st burn starts
Fregat 1st burn ends
Fregat 2nd burn starts
Fregat 2nd burn ends
Separation of IOV-1 PFM and FM2

Mission history

After the launch failure of the Soyuz rocket with the FOC1 pair of Galileo satellites in August 2014 and the discovery of potential problems with satellites themselves, the FOC2 mission scheduled on Dec. 18, 2014, was swapped in the schedule with the launch of O3b satellites. By the end of 2014, the mission was scheduled for March 28, 2015.


Galileo FOC satellites


Known specifications of Galileo FOC M2 No. 7 and No. 8:

Customer ESA (European Space Agency)
Contractors OHB-System (satellite bus and a prime contractor) SSTL (payload)
Total mass at lift-off 715 kilograms and 713 kilograms
Dimensions 2.5 by 1.2 by 1.1 meters and 14,67 meters solar panels span when deployed in orbit
Life span More than 12 years
On-board power 1,420 Watts
Navigation signal 3 bands (E5, E6 and E1)
Additional payload COSPAS-SARSAT search and rescue transponder

Next Galileo mission: VS12, FOC M3


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The article and photography by Anatoly Zak

Last update: December 15, 2015

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Payload section with a pair of Galileo FOC M2 satellite is being integrated with the Soyuz rocket on the launch pad. Credit: Arianespace