Press Release

The Soyuz Launch Site Receives its Muscle

By SpaceRef Editor
April 23, 2009
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The launch infrastructure at Soyuz’ new operating base in French Guiana has literally risen from the pad as the system of two umbilical masts and four primary support arms has now been installed.

This marks another key step in preparations of the world’s newest launch facility for the medium-lift Soyuz, which will join Arianespace’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 and the future lightweight Vega in operations at the Spaceport. (Click on the images for a larger version):

The two umbilical masts on Soyuz’ launch pad are shown in their raised position. The shorter blue-colored mast is for the Soyuz vehicle’s Block A core stage. It is straddled by the larger mast, which provides fluids and electrical connections for the launcher’s Block I third stage, as well as its Fregat upper stage and the vehicle’s payload.

The four main support arms for Soyuz are visible after their installation on the launch pad. These arms are in the closed position, where they form a support ring around the “waist” of Soyuz, suspending the vehicle in position over the launch pad. During the launch sequence, Soyuz’ upward movement at liftoff decreases the loads on this support ring, allowing the four arms to open outward – pulled by counterweights installed at the base of each arm.

This overview photo shows the four-level reinforced concrete structure that serves as the Soyuz’s launch pad –which is now topped off with the umbilical masts and four support arms. The configuration shown here is the same as used on the other Soyuz launch facilities at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and Russia’s Plesetsk Cosmodrome. A difference with the Spaceport’s installation will be the addition of a mobile gantry, which is to be employed for payload integration with the Soyuz erected in its vertical position.

A crane installs counterweights at the base of one of the four Soyuz support arms. When this ingenious support arm concept was originally developed for the Soyuz launch vehicle family, its designers gave it the nickname “tulip.” This refers to the tilt-back movement of its four “petals” – which begins when the arms are opened by Soyuz’ upward motion, followed by their tracking outward with the momentum provided by their counterweights.

A close-up image details the counterweight installation at the base of one support arm on the Soyuz launch pad. This new launch facility for the venerable Soyuz vehicle is located 12 kilometers northwest from the existing Ariane 5 launch complex, extending the Spaceport’s operational zone further up the French Guiana coastline.

SpaceRef staff editor.