The well-planned choreography involved in final pre-launch preparations of a Soyuz vehicle at the Spaceport is now underway as Arianespace's flight with the Pleiades 1B satellite remains on schedule for liftoff on Friday, November 30 from French Guiana.
This activity started with creation of the mission's payload "stack," beginning with the installation of Pleiades 1B atop its Fregat upper stage on November 21. Performed inside the Spaceport's S3B payload processing building, the integration was followed by the "stack's" completion on November 22 with its encapsulation by the two-piece Soyuz ST payload fairing.
In parallel, the Spaceport's ELS launch site for Soyuz also was busy as the basic three-stage launcher was raised from the tooling used for its integration in the MIK assembly building and placed on a horizontal transporter/erector rail car November 23 for transfer to the launch pad. Soyuz' rollout from the MIK facility occurred today, enabling the Soyuz to be erected in its vertical position at the pad, where it is now suspended in place by four large support arms.
With this step completed, all was ready for the purpose-built 53-meter tall mobile gantry to be moved into position around the launcher, providing a protected environment for tonight's installation of the Pleiades 1B payload "stack" - which will be hoisted inside the gantry and secured atop the Soyuz.
Friday's nighttime Soyuz launch with Pleiades 1B is to mark Arianespace's fourth mission for the medium-lift vehicle at the Spaceport since its French Guiana service entry in October 2011 - and the second performed by the company with the Russian-built launcher this year from South America.
With a fueled mass of approximately 1 metric ton, the dual-use Pleiades 1B spacecraft will provide very-high-resolution optical imaging coverage for the French and Spanish defense ministries, civil institutions and private users. It will operate from a 695-km. circular orbit, joining the twin Pleiades 1A spacecraft launched by Arianespace last December on Soyuz' second mission from the Spaceport.
The Pleiades prime contractor and system architect is France's CNES space agency, which selected the Astrium division of EADS to build both the Pleiades 1B and 1A satellites.