Soyuz-FG launches with four Globalstar satellites

by Chris Bergin

A Russian Soyuz-FG launch vehicle has lifted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome Kazakhstan, carrying four encapsulated Globalstar satellites. Launch was at 20:31 UTC.

The four satellites will be placed into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) after an 82 minute ride on the Fregat upper stage. UPDATE: Starsem confirmed that the upper stage accurately injected the four satellite dispenser into the targeted low Earth orbit of 920 km at 22:18 UTC.




“We are absolutely ecstatic about this success and pleased to make this announcement,” said Jay Monroe, Chairman & CEO of Globalstar, Inc. “We applaud all of our Globalstar employees world-wide who have worked tirelessly to make this day a reality.

“We also thank our proven launch services provider Starsem as well as the prime contractor for the first generation satellites, Space Systems Loral, and sub-contractor Thales Alenia Space for this launch success.

“Today is also a great day for Globalstar stockholders. Globalstar has invested approximately $120 million into the core satellite business in order to launch these four satellites plus the remaining four ground spares.

“Globalstar considers these eight satellites to represent the beginning of our next-generation constellation, because they will not only help bridge the gap today, but last long into and seamlessly operate with, our second-generation constellation.”

Mr. Jean-Yves Le Gall, Chairman & CEO of Starsem expressed his satisfaction. “I would like to extend my congratulations to Mr. Jay Monroe, Chairman & CEO of Globalstar, and to thank Mr. Monroe for the confidence he has shown in Starsem and the Soyuz launcher.

“The work of Starsem and its Russian partners though is not yet finished and we look forward to our next launch for Globalstar later this summer.”

Mission outline:

The top Globalstar spacecraft was deployed first, followed by the simultaneous release of the three remaining satellites at later intervals. The satellites weigh 450 kg. each, and will be delivered into a circular phasing orbit at an altitude of 920 km. and at an orbital inclination of 52 deg.

The flight of the three lower stages of the Soyuz launch vehicle lasts for 8 minutes and 48 seconds. At this time, the Soyuz third stage will separate from the nose module, consisting of the Fregat upper stage, the satellite dispenser and the four Globalstar satellites. The three lower Soyuz stages will fall back to Earth.

The Fregat upper stage will then fire its own engine, taking the nose module into a transfer orbit above the Earth. After this first burn, the Fregat will perform a barbecue maneuver to maintain proper thermal conditions for the Globalstar spacecraft during the following coast phase, which lasts for about 50 minutes.

At the correct point on this orbit, Fregat will fire again, to reach the circular separation orbit. Following stabilization, the four satellites will be released from the dispenser.

The separation of the upper-mounted satellite will occur first 2 minutes 30 seconds later, the lower three circumferencial-mounted satellites will be separated simultaneously.

These four satellites, together with four additional satellites due to be launched later this year, will be used to augment the company’s current first-generation LEO (low earth orbit) satellite constellation.

The satellites were built by Globalstar first generation prime contractor Space Systems/Loral and Thales Alenia Space, and will provide mobile satellite voice and data services for Globalstar customers around the world.

Globalstar is investing over $110 million in the two launches, which are to be conducted by the Russian-European launch services company Starsem (Arianespace, Astrium, Roscosmos, Samara Space Center) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Globalstar once again used the highly reliable, human-rated Soyuz launch vehicle, which Starsem used to successfully launch twenty-four Globalstar satellites from Baikonur in 1999.

To date, the workhorse family of Soyuz launch vehicles has performed 1,720 flights, with the most recent mission conducted on May 12 to orbit a Progress cargo re-supply spacecraft for the International Space Station (ISS).

‘I am very pleased to welcome once again the entire Globalstar team to the Starsem launch facilities,’ said Le Gall.

‘We are proud to have the chance to perform Soyuz launches 7 and 8 for Globalstar and look forward to our continued participation in the Globalstar success.’

Globalstar plans to use its current constellation plus these additional eight first-generation satellites as it manages the transition through to the launch of the Globalstar II second-generation constellation, which is expected to begin in late 2009.

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