Europe delays maiden launch of Soyuz with sat-nav payload

October 20, 2011
A Russian Soyuz rocket is transfered to Arianespace's launch pad on October 14 at Europe's Spaceport launch site in Kourou, French Guiana.The maiden launch of a Russian-built Soyuz from Europe's space base, carrying the first satellites of a planned rival to the GPS, was scrubbed around two hours before liftoff, officials said.

Europe announced a 24-hour delay in the maiden launch Thursday of a Russian rocket laden with the first satellites in a rival scheme to America's GPS geopositioning system.

The first launch of the legendary Soyuz from Europe's space base was scrubbed some two hours before lift-off after a problem developed in fuelling the rocket's third stage, Arianespace said.

"We are going to make a new attempt tomorrow at 7:30 a.m.," the launch operator's chief executive, Jean-Yves Le Gall, told a press conference.

The operation depends on replacing a defective valve and on the freshness of the launch crews after a 24-hour postponement, he said.

Carrying the first satellites in the Galileo system, Europe's 5.4-billion-euro (7.2-billion-dollar) answer to the US Global Positioning System (GPS), the Soyuz had been set for a 7:34 a.m. (1034 GMT) liftoff.

The Soyuz VS01 rocket on launch pad at the Arianespace spaceport in Sinnamary, 12km from Kourou, French Guiana. Europe has announced a 24-hour delay in the maiden launch of a Russian rocket laden with the first satellites in a rival scheme to America's GPS geopositioning system.

It is the first launch under a 2003 deal to deploy the rocket beyond the historic Soyuz bases in Plesetsk, northern Russia, and Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

The contract is designed to harvest revenue for Russia's space industry and add a medium-weight lifter to Arianespace's heavy Ariane 5 and a future lightweight rocket, the Vega.

Galileo is designed to comprise 27 operational satellites and three spares by its completion in 2020.

It should be accurate to within a metre (3.25 feet), whereas the GPS is currently accurate to between three and eight metres (10 and 26 feet), according to official websites.

Soyuz is built at the Samara space complex on the banks of the Volga. Its journey to Kourou is a weeks-long odyssey by train to St. Petersburg, by special freighter across the Atlantic and finally by truck from the port of Pariacabo, on the Kourou river.

The rocket ranks alongside the Saturn V, which took the Apollo astronauts to the Moon, as the most famous launcher in space history.

Its heritage can be traced to the dawn of the space race in 1957 with the launch of Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin's first manned flight in 1961. It is still being built at the rate of 15 to 20 rockets per year.

All told, its family has notched up 1,776 launches, with a success rate of more than 94 percent.

From Kourou, Soyuz will be able to hoist 2.8 tonnes into geostatieonary transfer orbit, compared with 1.7 tonnes from Baikonur. The difference is explained by the extra push given by Earth's rotation at the Equator.

Explore further: Delays seen for Soyuz, Vega launches at Europe's space base

Related Stories

Soyuz launch from Europe space base set for October

May 10, 2011

The maiden launch of the veteran Soviet-Russian rocket Soyuz from Europe's space base in South America has been scheduled for October, a spokesman for launch operators Arianespace said on Tuesday.

First Soyuz launch from Kourou to go ahead: Arianespace

August 25, 2011

The maiden flight of a Soyuz from Europe's space base will go ahead as scheduled on October 20, as it is a different version from the rocket involved in Wednesday's launch failure by Russia, Arianespace said on Thursday.

Soyuz ready with Galileo satellites for milestone launch

October 14, 2011

International space cooperation will be highlighted in a historic event on 20 October: the launch of Europe’s first Galileo navigation satellites on Russia’s first Soyuz rocket to depart from Europe’s Spaceport ...

Final checks for first Soyuz launch from Kourou

October 20, 2011

Launch directors on Thursday were running through the last checks for the maiden liftoff of Soyuz, the legendary Soviet-Russian rocket, from Europe's base in French Guiana.

Recommended for you

NASA selects investigations for future key planetary mission

October 1, 2015

NASA has selected five science investigations for refinement during the next year as a first step in choosing one or two missions for flight opportunities as early as 2020. Three of those chosen have ties to NASA's Jet Propulsion ...

Dawn team shares new maps and insights about Ceres

October 1, 2015

Mysteries and insights about Ceres are being discussed this week at the European Planetary Science Conference in Nantes, France. NASA's Dawn spacecraft is providing scientists with tantalizing views and other data about the ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.