Russian rocket puts UK satellites in interim orbit – agency
A Russian Soyuz-ST-B rocket that on Thursday took off from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana has injected four O3b communications satellites belonging to British operator O3b Networks into an interim orbit, said a spokesman for the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos).
“The Fregat upper stage and the four communications satellites have just detached from the third stage of the Soyuz-ST-B carrier rocket. The subsequent injection of the satellites into the final orbit will achieved via several activations of the service propulsion system of the Fregat,” the spokesman told Interfax-AVN.
He said it would be about two and a half hours from takeoff to injection in the final orbit, which would have an altitude of about 7,830 kilometers.
Russian rocket technicians working in the French Guiana jungle transported a three-stage Soyuz booster to its launch pad Monday and erected it upright for liftoff Thursday with four communications satellites for O3b Networks, a company with aims to beam broadband Internet service to the developing world.
The rocket rolled to the launch pad from a horizontal integration building riding on rail tracks while mounted on a specially-built transporter-erector system. Once the rocket completed the nearly half-mile rollout, the transporter-erector lifted the rocket vertical, then workers mounted the Soyuz to hold-down clamps suspended over the launch pad’s flame trench.
Later Monday, officials planned to transfer the mission’s four satellite passengers and a Fregat-M upper stage from a clean room across the Guiana Space Center to the Soyuz launch facility. The O3b satellites, already encapsulated inside their payload shroud, will be hoisted into the launch pad’s 174-foot-tall mobile gantry and positioned on top of the Soyuz ST-B rocket.
Liftoff of the Soyuz booster on its 10th flight from the European-run French Guiana space base is set for 1837 GMT (1:37 p.m. EST) Thursday.