September 29, 2005

Technical features

Soyuz is a medium-lift vehicle that will complete Esa’s launcher range alongside Ariane and Vega.

A new launcher for ESA

Soyuz is a 4-stage launcher:
  • The 1st stage is identical to that used on Semyorka
  • The 2nd stage is the core of the launcher, with 4 boosters strapped around it
  • The 3rd stage, like the 2nd, burns a mixture of liquid oxygen and kerosene
  • The Fregat reignitable upper stage burns nitrogen peroxide, UDMH and hydrazine

An evolved version

Soyuz-2 is a new launcher version slightly modified to operate from the CSG launch pad.
2 variants will operate from French Guiana starting in 2009: Soyuz 2-1-a and Soyuz 2-1-b.

Qualified in 2004, the Soyuz 2-1-a has a larger payload fairing and a digital control system that affords it greater flexibility.

From the CSG’s near-equatorial location, it will be able to lift 2.7 t into geostationary transfert orbit (GTO) —almost twice its launch capacity from Baikonur.

Soyuz 2-1-b was qualified in 2006 on the launch of CNES’s Corot satellite from Baikonur. This version will be capable of lifting up to 3 t into GTO thanks to a more powerful 3rd stage with a new engine.

New launch complex

The ELS launch complex (for Ensemble de Lancement Soyouz) is 10 km from the Ariane launch infrastructure. It comprises a launch control centre, integration zone and launch zone. Covering an area of 120 hectares, the ELS is in the north-west corner of the CSG at a location called Malmanoury Nord, 45km from Kourou in the commune of Sinnamary.

The Soyuz launch pad will be very similar to those in Russia and Kazakhstan.
The only major difference is that payloads will be mated with the launcher vertically using a gantry, rather than horizontally as in Russia.

This choice was made to protect payloads from weather conditions in French Guiana and to apply uniform procedures for Soyuz, Ariane 5 and Vega.

The pad is sited to accommodate both eastward and northward launches toward the sea, thereby guaranteeing the safety of populations and the environment.

All range safety regulations applicable at the CSG will also apply to the ELS launch complex.

A colossal construction site

Preparatory work began in January 2004. Earthwork got underway in January 2005 and the worksite was officially inaugurated on 27 February 2007.

The equipment provided by Russia for the launch pad and launcher systems arrived in French Guiana in 2008. Since August 2008, teams of Russian experts and technicians have been working on site to install equipment on the infrastructures built by CNES.

Technical qualification tests followed by the 1st Soyuz flight from French Guiana are scheduled for the 2nd half of 2010.

Did you know?

Amerindian settlments unearthed at Sinnamary construction site
Before earth work began, precautionary archaeological digs at the end of 2004 revealed ancient settlements in sand quarries at 3 locations probably occupied by Amerindians 3,200 years ago, and at an Old World-New World "contact site" at another location.

Polished axe fragments, ceramics decorated with geometric shapes, pottery with belly incisions, and features in the shape of monkeys, jaguars and humans -painted red, black and white on the inside and outside- were found in the 1st 3 zones. At the contact site archaeologists identified imported metal, African earthenware pipes and Ameridian pearls.

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