Two Rocket Launches Yesterday Provided Double The Space Fun

And we have liftoff — two times over! Launch fans got a double treat yesterday when two space missions successfully left Earth. First came a morning launch at 10:46 a.m. Eastern (2:46 p.m. UTC) when DMSP-19 (a satellite of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program) took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. You can watch the replay below the jump.

“The satellite launched today is equipped with a sophisticated sensor suite that can capture visible and infrared cloud cover; measure precipitation, surface temperature and soil moisture; and collect specialized global meteorological, oceanographic and solar-geophysical information in all weather conditions. DMSP-19 joins six other satellites in polar orbit providing weather information,” stated Lockheed Martin, the long-standing prime contractor of the program.

And just above this paragraph is the French Guiana launch of Sentinel-1A, the first half of a pair of environmental monitoring satellites that should show the Earth in high-definition to the European Space Agency and customers. Then below the jump you can see the successful separation of Sentinel-1A in space. The launch took place at 5:02 p.m. Eastern (9:02 p.m. UTC).

Flawless Maiden Launch for Europe’s New Vega Rocket

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Europe scored a major space success with today’s (Feb. 13) flawless maiden launch of the brand new Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

The four stage Vega lifted off on the VV01 flight at 5:00 a.m. EST (10:00 GMT, 11:00 CET, 07:00 local time) from a new launch pad in South America, conducted a perfectly executed qualification flight and deployed 9 science satellites into Earth orbit.

Vega is a small rocket launcher designed to loft science and Earth observation satellites.

Liftoff of Maiden Vega Rocket on Feb. 13, 2012 on VV01 flight from ESA Spaceport at French Guiana. Credit: ESA

The payload consists of two Italian satellites – ASI’s LARES laser relativity satellite and the University of Bologna’s ALMASat-1 – as well as seven picosatellites provided by European universities: [email protected] (Italy), Goliat (Romania), MaSat-1 (Hungary), PW-Sat (Poland), Robusta (France), UniCubeSat GG (Italy) and Xatcobeo (Spain).

On 13 February 2012, the first Vega lifted off on its maiden flight from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja

Three of these cubesats were the first ever satellites to be built by Poland, Hungary and Romania. They were constructed by University students who were given a once in a lifetime opportunity by ESA to get practical experience and launch their satellites for free since this was Vega’s first flight.

The 30 meter tall Vega has been been under development for 9 years by the European Space Agency (ESA) and its partners, the Italian Space Agency (ASI), French Space Agency (CNES). Seven Member States contributed to the program including Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland as well as industry.

Vega's first launch, dubbed VV01, occurred on Feb 13, 2012 from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. It carried nine satellites into orbit: LARES, ALMASat-1 and seven Cubesats. Credits: ESA - J. Huart
ESA can now boast a family of three booster rockets that can service the full range of satellites from small to medium to heavy weight at their rapidly expanding South American Spaceport at the Guiana Space Center.

Vega joins Europe’s stable of launchers including the venerable Ariane V heavy lifter rocket family and the newly inaugurated medium class Russian built Soyuz booster and provides ESA with an enormous commercial leap in the satellite launching arena.

“In a little more than three months, Europe has increased the number of launchers it operates from one to three, widening significantly the range of launch services offered by the European operator Arianespace. There is not anymore one single European satellite which cannot be launched by a European launcher service,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA.

“It is a great day for ESA, its Member States, in particularly Italy where Vega was born, for European industry and for Arianespace.”

Dordain noted that an additional 200 workers have been hired in Guiana to meet the needs of Europe’s burgeoning space programs. Whereas budget cutbacks are forcing NASA and its contractors to lay off tens of thousands of people as a result of fallout from the global economic recession.

LARES, ALMASat-1 and CubeSats satellites integration for 1st Vega launch.
Credits: ESA, CNES, Arianespace, Optique Video du CSG, P. Baudon

ESA has already signed commercial contracts for future Vega launches and 5 more Vega rockets are already in production.

Vega’s light launch capacity accommodates a wide range of satellites – from 300 kg to 2500 kg – into a wide variety of orbits, from equatorial to Sun-synchronous.

“Today is a moment of pride for Europe as well as those around 1000 individuals who have been involved in developing the world’s most modern and competitive launcher system for small satellites,” said Antonio Fabrizi, ESA’s Director of Launchers.

ESA’s new Vega rocket fully assembled on its launch pad at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Inaugural Vega Rocket Poised at Europe’s South American Spaceport

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Final preparations are in full swing for the inaugural flight of Europe’s new light launcher – the Vega booster – from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Launch crews are preparing the new rocket for blastoff as early as Feb 9, 2012 from the new Vega launch site at Kourou.

Vega has been under development for 9 years by ESA and its partners, Italian space agency ASI, French space agency CNES and industry.

The 30 meter tall Vega will join ESA’s venerable Ariane rocket family and the newly inaugurated Soyuz as the third class of booster rockets to launch from ESA’s rapidly expanding South American Spaceport at the Guiana Space Center.

1st Vega Rocket at pad. Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2012

This gives ESA an enormous commercial leap and wide ranging capability to launch all types of satellites from small to big and heavy.

The 4 stage Vega rocket is now fully assembled at the launch pad for the initial qualification flight dubbed VV1. The launch window stretches for a few days beyond Feb. 9.

The Vega VV1 qualification flight will carry 9 satellites to orbit.

The payloads are housed inside the ‘upper composite’ composed of the payload fairing and adapter and were integrated on top of the AVUM fourth stage by pad workers on Jan. 24, who completed and verified all the electrical and mechanical connections and links.

Fully assembled Vega VV01 on pad. Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2012

The satellites aboard include the LARES laser relativity satellite, ALMASat-1 from ASI and seven CubeSats from an assortment of European Universities.

Vega's upper composite, comprising LARES, ALMASat-1, seven CubeSats and the fairing, was transferred to the pad on 24 January and added to the vehicle at Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. Credits: ESA - M. Pedoussaut, 2012

The main tasks remaining before the maiden flight are the final checkout of the assembled vehicle, the last launch countdown rehearsal and the fuelling of the restartable AVUM 4th stage with liquid propellants.

The Vega launch site is located at the previous ELA-1 complex, originally used for Ariane 1 and Ariane 3 missions and has been rebuilt and upgraded.

Fully assembled Vega VV01 on pad. Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2012

The Vega rocket is specifically designed to fill a market gap in ESA’s satellite launch capabilities, namely the smaller, lightweight science and earth observation satellites.

It can launch payloads ranging from 300 kg to 2500 kg in mass, depending on the customers orbital requirements.

Vega affords ESA full market coverage by complementing the medium and heavy weight payload categories covered by the Soyuz and Ariane V rockets.

1st Fully assembled Vega on launch pad for Inaugural Flight - February 2012. Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja

Watch Universe Today for Vega maiden launch coverage and special launch pictures

Video Duet – Soyuz Debut Blast off from the Amazon Jungle and Rockin’ Russian Rollout !

Watch the video of today’s debut lift off of a Russian Soyuz rocket from the edge of the Amazon jungle at the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana as it successfully carried the first two Galileo In-Orbit Validation satellites to space after an arduous 7 year struggle to mesh Russian and European technologies and cultures – a magnificent achievement that opens a wide realm of new commercial and science exploration possibilities to exploit space for humankind. Launch photos below and here.

Now have some real fun and enjoy this absolutely cool Rockin’ Russian music video showing a headless Soyuz rollout to the pad, an erection like you’ve never imagined and capping with the Galileo satellites. Guaranteed you’ve never seen struttin’ like this but will totally get the Soyuz experience in 2 minutes – give it a whirl. They never did it like this in Russia.

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“This historic first launch of a genuine European system like Galileo was performed by the legendary Russian launcher that was used for Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin, a launcher that will, from now on, lift off from Europe’s Spaceport,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA.

“These two historical events are also symbols of cooperation: cooperation between ESA and Russia, with a strong essential contribution of France; and cooperation between ESA and the European Union, in a joint initiative with the EU”.

First Soyuz lift from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 21 October 2011. Credits: ESA/CNES/ARIANESPACE - Optique Video du CSG, Service Optique
Soyuz inside the Mobile Launch Gantry after installation of Galileo satellites mounted inside Upper Composite. Credit: Claus Lippert/DLR

Read Ken’s continuing features about Soyuz from South America starting here:
Historic 1st Launch of Legendary Soyuz from South America
Russian Soyuz Poised for 1st Blastoff from Europe’s New South American Spaceport

Read Ken’s features about Russia’s upcoming Phobos-Grunt launch from Baikonur here:
Phobos-Grunt and Yinghou-1 Arrive at Baikonur Launch Site to tight Mars Deadline
Phobos-Grunt: The Mission Poster
Daring Russian Sample Return mission to Martian Moon Phobos aims for November Liftoff

Historic 1st Launch of Legendary Soyuz from South America

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Russia’s legendary Soyuz rocket soared skywards today (Oct.21) on its historic 1st ever blastoff from a new European space base in the equatorial jungles of South America. The history making liftoff of the Soyuz ST-B launcher from French Guiana occurred at exactly 6:30:26 a.m. EST (10:30:26 GMT) and lofted the first two operational satellites of Europe’s new Galileo GPS navigation system.

The flawless liftoff of the Soyuz booster from the ELS pad in French Guiana marked the first time that a Soyuz was launched from outside of the six existing pads in Russia and Kazakhstan. The joint Russian-European project was started back in 2004 and culminated with today’s launch of the Soyuz-VSO1 mission.

“This launch represents a lot for Europe: we have placed in orbit the first two satellites of Galileo, a system that will position our continent as a world-class player in the strategic domain of satellite navigation, a domain with huge economic perspectives,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA.

First Soyuz lift blastoff from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 21 October 2011. Mobile gantry at left. Credits:Thilo Kranz/DLR - Special to Universe Today

Soyuz lineage dates back to the beginning of the Space Age with the launch of Sputnik-1 in 1957 and the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, in 1961. Soyuz had flown 1776 times to date.

First Soyuz lift from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 21 October 2011. Credits: ESA/CNES/ARIANESPACE - S. Corvaja, 2011

The launcher is based on the existing Soyuz design with a few changes to accommodate European safety standards and the construction of the ELS launch pad was modeled after the existing pads in Baikonur in Kazakhstan and Plesetsk in Russia. One significant difference is the construction of a 45 meter (170 foot) mobile gantry

A leaky valve delayed the flight by one day.

The duo of 700 kg Galileo satellites were mounted side by side on the Fregat upper stage atop the three stage Soyuz-2 rocket. These two Galileo In-orbit Validation (IOV) model satellites are experimental models that will be used to test the GPS technology.

Soyuz lifts off for the first time on 21 October 2011 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana carrying the first two Galileo In-Orbit Validation satellites. Credits: ESA/CNES/ARIANESPACE - S. Corvaja, 2011

Two additional Galileo IOV satellites will be launched in 2012 as the initial segment of a 30 strong constellation of satellites in total.

The Galileo satelites will provide pinpoint accuracy to within about 1 meter (3 feet) compared to about 3 meters (10 feet) for the GPS system.

The 4 meter diameter payload fairing jettisoned as planned three minutes into the flight and the first of two firings of the Fregat upper stage was successfully completed after burnout of the lower stages. The second Fregat firing was accomplished about 4 hours after launch and injected the Galileo satellites into orbit some 23,000 km (14,000 miles) miles high.

The Fregat upper stage was designed to reignite and fire up to 20 times. It is fueled with nitrogen tetroxide and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH).

First Soyuz lift from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 21 October 2011. Credits: ESA/CNES/ARIANESPACE - S. Corvaja, 2011

By launching from near the equator (5°N), the Soyuz gains about a 50% performance boost from 1.7 tons to nearly 3 tons to geostationary orbit due to the Earth’s faster spin compared to Baikonur (46°N).

Manned Soyuz missions from South America could be possible at some future date if the political and funding go ahead was approved by ESA and Russia. It is technically possible to reach the ISS from the French Guiana pad and would require the installation of additional ground support equipment.

The next Soyuz launch from South America is set for Dec. 16, 2011. 17 contracts have already been signed for future liftoffs at a rate of 2 to 3 per year.

Read Ken’s continuing features about Soyuz from South America starting here:
Russian Soyuz Poised for 1st Blastoff from Europe’s New South American Spaceport

Read Ken’s features about Russia’s upcoming Phobos-Grunt launch from Baikonur here:
Phobos-Grunt and Yinghou-1 Arrive at Baikonur Launch Site to tight Mars Deadline
Phobos-Grunt: The Mission Poster
Daring Russian Sample Return mission to Martian Moon Phobos aims for November Liftoff

Russian Soyuz Poised for 1st Blastoff from Europe’s New South American Spaceport

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A Russian Soyuz-2 rocket sits poised for its first ever blast off in less than 24 hours from a brand new launch pad built in the jungles of French Guiana, South America by the European Space Agency (ESA) .

The payload for the debut liftoff of the Soyuz ST-B booster consists of the first pair of operational Galilieo satellites, critical to Europe’s hopes for building an independent GPS navigation system in orbit.

Soyuz VS01, the first Soyuz flight from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, will lift off on 20 October 2011. The rocket will carry the first two satellites of Europe’s Galileo navigation system into orbit. Credit:ESA - S. Corvaja

The Soyuz VS01 mission is set to soar on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 6:34 a.m. EDT (1034 GMT ) from Europe’s new South American pad, specially built for the Soyuz rocket. The three stage rocket was rolled out 600 meters horizontally to the launch pad and vertically raised to its launch position.

Soyuz VS01 on launch pad. Soyuz VS01vehicle was rolled out horizontally on its erector from the preparation building to the launch zone and then raised into the vertical position. The ‘Upper Composite’, comprising the Fregat upper stage, payload and fairing, was also transferred and added onto the vehicle from above, completing the very first Soyuz on its launch pad at Europe’s Spaceport. Soyuz VS01 will lift off on 20 October 2011. The rocket will carry the first two satellites of Europe’s Galileo navigation system into orbit. Credit: ESA - S. Corvaja

The two Galileo satellites were mated to the Fregat-MT upper stage, enclosed inside their payload fairing and then hoisted atop the Soyuz rocket. They should seperate from the upper stage about 3.5 hous after launch.

Because French Guiana is so close to the equator, the Soyuz gains a significant boost in performance from 1.7 tons to 3 tons due to the Earth’s greater spin.

This marks the first time in history that the renowned Soyuz workhorse will blast off from outside of Kazakhstan or Russia and also the start of orbital construction of Europe’s constellation of 30 Gallileo satellites.

28 more of the navigation satellites, built by the EADS consortium based in Germany, will be lofted starting in 2012 aboard the medium class Soyuz rockets.

French Guiana is already home to Europe’s venerable Ariane rocket family and will soon expand further to include the new Vega rocket for smaller class satellites.

ESA will begin live streaming coverage starting about an hour before the planned launch time of 6:34 a.m. EDT (1034 GMT)

Soyuz VS01 poised for launch on Oct. 20, 2011. Credit: ESA - S. Corvaja