The launcher for Arianespace’s next Soyuz flight from French Guiana is taking shape inside the Spaceport’s MIK integration building.
This vehicle will be used for the 25th Spaceport mission with Soyuz since the medium-lift launcher’s introduction at the equatorial base in 2011. Liftoff is planned before year-end.
Activity in the MIK integration facility has focused on installation of the cylindrical-conical first-stage boosters, which are clustered around Soyuz’ central core second stage. Using build-up procedures applied for the more than 1,900 total flights performed to date with this iconic Russian launch vehicle, the process is performed horizontally – allowing the four first stage boosters to be moved into position around the second stage core and secured.
The core stage has a distinctive “hammerhead” shape that enables the four first stage boosters to be clustered around it.
With the first/second stage integration completed, the Soyuz will be ready to receive its centerline third stage, completing the basic launcher’s build-up. This will enable its rollout to the ELS launch pad near the town of Sinnamary in the Spaceport’s northwestern sector, where the launcher will be raised to the vertical position – preparing it to receive the Fregat upper stage and the payload.
The upcoming mission is designated Flight VS25 in Arianespace’s launch family numbering system, and will use the Soyuz ST-A launcher version. Soyuz is operated side-by-side at the Spaceport with Arianespace’s two other launch vehicles: the heavyweight Ariane 5 and light-lift Vega.
This ground-level view inside the MIK integration facility shows the basic Soyuz launcher’s build-up process underway. Two of the first-stage boosters already have been mated to the hammerhead-shaped second stage core, while the third booster is lowered into position. Soyuz’ fourth booster is ready at the right, secured by a mobile jig that is on the MIK facility’s floor-level rail system.