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Russian rocket prepares for lift-off

Soyuz-2.1a rolling out to the launch pad at Baikonur

The Soyuz-2.1a rocket with the Fregat upper stage and 6 Globalstar-2 satellites has been rolled out to launch pad 31 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

AT THE BAIKONUR COSMODROME in Kazakhstan, a Soyuz-2.1a/Fregat rocket is being prepared for launch with a payload of six communications satellites for the Globalstar company.The Soyuz is one of the world’s most reliable commercial launch vehicles. On October 19, 2010 a Soyuz booster was used to successfully launch six new Globalstar second-generation satellites. It was also successfully utilized on eight previous occasions to launch Globalstar’s first generation satellites. Later this year Globalstar plans to conduct two additional launches of six satellites per launch also using the Soyuz. The human-rated Soyuz launcher is used to transport astronauts and cosmonauts to the international space station.

The Globalstar second-generation satellite constellation is designed to last for 15 years, twice the lifespan of Globalstar’s first generation satellites.

Launch is due for 0258 GMT on July 11. To get an idea of what it will be like, here’s a video of a similar Russian launcher lifting off from Baikonur:

And here’s a bunch of photos of the Soyuz being prepared for launch:

Soyuz-2.1a rolling out to the launch pad at Baikonur

Soyuz-2.1a is the latest version of the venerable Soyuz rocket family.

Soyuz-2.1a rolling out to the launch pad at Baikonur

This Soyuz-2.1a has a Fregat upper stage attached, enabling it to carry a heavier payload.

Soyuz-2.1a rolling out to the launch pad at Baikonur

The Soyuz-2.1a is 46.1 metres high, 2.95 metres wide on its main body, and weights 300 tonnes.

Soyuz-2.1a rolling out to the launch pad at Baikonur

Soyuz rockets can be launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan, Plesetsk in Russia, and soon from the French spaceport near Kourou in French Guiana.

Soyuz-2.1a rolling out to the launch pad at Baikonur

The modern 2.1a version of the Soyuz launcher has improved engines and a new digital flight control system.

Soyuz-2.1a rolling out to the launch pad at Baikonur

Since May 2009, there have been five successful Soyuz-2.1a launches out of six attempts.

Adapted from information issued by Roscosmos PAO / Yuzhny Space Centre / Globalstar.

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Amazing shuttle launch video!

Watch this amazing 45-minute-long video of the “best of the best” imagery of NASA space shuttle launches.

NASA engineer Matt Melis is an expert in imagery analysis at the Glenn Research Centre, and in this documentary he shows us how photographic documentation of a space shuttle launch “plays a critical role in the engineering analysis and evaluation process that takes place during each and every mission.”

Adapted from information issued by NASA Glenn Research Centre / Matt Melis.

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Video: dual-satellite launch

The Arianespace company celebrated its third successful launch of 2010, as an Ariane 5 rocket on flight V196 thundered into space on August 4 from the Spaceport launch complex in Kourou, French Guiana.

Aboard the rocket were two satellites that will provide telecommunications services to Africa, the Middle East and Persian Gulf states: NILESAT 201 for Egyptian-based Nilesat, and RASCOM-QAF1R for the Pan-African satellite operator, RascomStar-QAF. Both spacecraft were built by Thales Alenia Space.

The heavy-lift Ariane 5 delivered an estimated total payload lift performance of 7,085 kg, which included 6,250 kg for the NILESAT 201 and RASCOM-QAF1R satellites, plus their integration hardware and the SYLDA 5 dual-payload dispenser system.

NILESAT 201 was released first in the flight sequence, being deployed from the top of Ariane 5’s payload “stack” at just under 29 minutes into the mission. With a lift-off mass of about 3,200-kg, the satellite carries 24 Ku-band and 4 Ka-band transponders, and is to be positioned at an orbital slot of 7 deg. West. It will provide direct television broadcasting for the Middle East, Africa and Gulf states, and also has the relay capability to open new markets such as broadband Internet access.

The RASCOM-QAF1R platform weighed approximately 3,050 kg at lift-off and is to be operated from an orbital position of 2.85 degrees East. It is designed to deliver communications services to rural parts of Africa, including long-distance domestic and international links, direct TV broadcasts and Internet access.

Three more Ariane 5 flights planned for the rest of this year. In addition, preparations continue for the upcoming introductions of the Soyuz and Vega launchers at the Spaceport.

Adapted from information issued by Arianespace.

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Satellite launch: watch the video

On Friday, May 21, Arianespace placed two communications satellites into geostationary transfer orbit: the ASTRA 3B commercial communications satellite for the Luxembourg-based operator SES ASTRA, and the COMSATBw-2 military communications satellite built by Astrium for the German Ministry of Defence.

This was the 50th Ariane 5 mission, and the 36th successful launch in a row

Ariane 5 is the only commercial satellite launcher now on the market capable of simultaneously launching two payloads.

Adapted from information issued by Arianespace.

Satellite keeps its eye on ice

Cryosat 2 is a European satellite designed to look down on Earth and monitor ice and snow. It’s part of an overall programme to better understand Earth’s climate.

And interesting aspect of this mission is that the launch vehicle was a converted Dnepr ICBM – Intercontinental Ballistic Missile – which explains why it launched from a silo beneath the ground.

Adapted from information issued by ESA.