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Arianespace to open 2017 launch manifest with Hispasat 36W-1

An Arianespace Soyuz ST-B (flight VS16) transfer from MIK to launch zone

An Arianespace Soyuz ST-B (flight VS16) being transferred from the preparation building MIK to the Soyuz launch zone of Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on Jan. 24, 2017. Photo Credit: Stephane Corvaja / ESA

Multinational launch provider Arianespace is gearing up to launch the Hispasat 36W-1 telecommunications satellite – alternatively known as Hispasat AG1 – from their spaceport facility in Kourou, French Guiana, and will be their first in 2017. Launch of the new-model communications satellite is set for January 27, 2017, with a liftoff time of 8:03 p.m. EST (01:03 GMT on January 28).


An Arianespace Soyuz ST-B (flight VS16) being raised by the erector’s support arm.

Photo Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace

Hispasat will launch atop a Europeanized Soyuz ST-B launch vehicle, which is an upgraded version of the venerable Russian launcher that has seen decades of successful use.

The Soyuz family has been a workhorse of the Soviet and Russian space programs since 1957, racking up more than 1,800 launches in the past 60 years, and is capable of lofting more than 7,100 pounds (3,250 kilograms) to a geosynchronous transfer orbit in the more powerful ST-B configuration often flown by Arianespace.

The Soyuz’s first stage is composed of a core, surrounded by four strap-on liquid-fueled boosters – an iconic design, which is immediately recognizable by the distinctive look of the four boosters as they taper to meet the core stage.

The core stage and side boosters make use of slightly different versions of the same family of the Russian-manufactured engine – the RD-107A on the boosters and the RD-108A on the core. Both engine types are powered by a single turbopump assembly feeding liquid oxygen (LOX) and highly refined kerosene (RP-1) into four independent combustion chambers.

The primary difference between the two is the amount of control authority the engines provide via their integrated vernier thrusters. The side boosters don’t need to provide a large amount of control authority over the vehicle and are only outfitted with a pair of verniers per engine. The core stage’s RD-108A, however, needs a full range of attitude control and is, therefore, designed with four verniers.

Though both the RD-107A and RD-108A are based off the same design, their output is somewhat different. The boosters each provide 188,500 pounds (838.5 kilonewtons) of sea-level thrust – for a total of 754,000 pounds (3,354 kilonewtons) of supplemental power during their two minutes of operation – while the core stage provides a bit less at 178,100 pounds (792.5 kilonewtons).

The Soyuz’s second stage is powered by the Russian-made RD-0124. Like its larger RD-107A/180A cousins, the RD-0124 has four combustion chambers, into which is fed LOX and RP-1 from a single turbopump system. The smaller RD-0124 provides nearly 67,000 pounds (297.9 kilonewtons) of vacuum thrust.

The upper stage for the Hispasat launch will be the Russian Fregat-MT and is responsible for placing the communications satellite into the proper geostationary transfer orbit. The Fregat-MT had an issue placing two Galileo navigation satellites into their proper orbit in 2014 – a failure attributed to the hydrazine propellant freezing in the lines feeding the thrusters – but has seen several successful missions since, following a redesign to mitigate the issue contributing to the frozen fuel.


Artist’s rendering of the Hispasat 36W-1 satellite. Image Credit: Hispasat

Flying atop the Soyuz is the Hispasat 36W-1 telecommunications satellite. The spacecraft is a new design – the first built on the modular SmallGEO satellite platform, which was developed by an industrial consortium led by OHB System, along with partners OHB Sweden and LuxSpace.

The Hispasat 36W-1 satellite is a public-private partnership between the European Space Agency (ESA) and satellite operator Hispasat and will serve as an on-orbit demonstration model, in addition to providing commercial communications services.

The satellite bus has both chemical and electric thrusters – for orbital maneuvers and stationkeeping, respectively – along with power generating capability near 10 kilowatts provided via a pair of solar arrays to service both the spacecraft’s core functions and commercial operations.

Outfitted with 3 Ka-band and 20 Ku-band transponders, Hispasat 36W-1 will provide communications coverage to Europe, the Canary Islands, and South America, and is outfitted with the Redsat hardware, which will process four Ku-band channels simultaneously and provide high-quality data services to four adjustable zones in its service area.

The 7,055-pound (3,200-kilogram) satellite is at the top end of the Soyuz ST-B’s GTO lift capacity and is designed to have an on-orbit lifetime of 15 years.


Arianespace will have only a brief respite before their next scheduled mission – two communications satellites – which will launch on the Ariane 5. The launch is scheduled for February 14, 2017, during a launch window which extends from 4:39 p.m. to 6:05 p.m. EST (21:39–23:05 GMT).

Soyuz VS16 transfer from MIK to launch zone

The Soyuz ST-B (flight VS16) being transferred from the preparation building MIK to the Soyuz launch zone of Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on Jan. 24, 2017. Photo Credit: Stephane Corvaja / ESA



Curt Godwin has been a fan of space exploration for as long as he can remember, keeping his eyes to the skies from an early age. Initially majoring in Nuclear Engineering, Curt later decided that computers would be a more interesting - and safer - career field. He's worked in education technology for more than 20 years, and has been published in industry and peer journals, and is a respected authority on wireless network engineering. Throughout this period of his life, he maintained his love for all things space and has written about his experiences at a variety of NASA events, both on his personal blog and as a freelance media representative.

Reader Comments

I wonder if they will postpone the flight due to the Voronezh Mechanical Plant engine recall. It would be a pity if the second-stage engine failed.

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