Soyuz FG launches with Europe’s GIOVE-B satellite

by Chris Bergin

Arianespace’s Starsem affiliate has launched a Russian Soyuz-FG, carrying European GIOVE-B navigation satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Launch was on time at 6:16pm EDT – ending with a successful spacecraft separation nearly four hours later. is covered the launch as a live event, with extensive background, live updates (including “in the bunker live” on L2), images and launch video, available on the links below (read more).


L2 Specific to this launch: Many Exclusive Hi Res Images of Soyuz FG with GIOVE-B. Soyuz Vehicle Manuals. Exclusive Updates and Images from the Launch Control Center. Extended Hi Res Launch Video.

**Soyuz FG GIOVE-B – Live Update Pages**

**FREE Soyuz FG GIOVE-B Launch Video** – available now.
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Galileo Program:

The program is hugely important for Europe, as it builds the foundations for its own satellite navigation system, known as Galileo. The system will deliver a new, advanced global civil positioning service for citizens in Europe and throughout the world, with the aim of removing the reliance of the American GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) systems.

These foundations of Galileo are currently being laid through what is known as the In-Orbit Validation phase. This includes the launch of pilot satellites. In 2005, GIOVE-A was placed in orbit by a Soyuz launcher from Baikonur, and since then, Galileo signals have been broadcast by GIOVE-A.

Now the second Galileo satellite, GIOVE-B will continue the validation of the critical technologies that need to be developed in Europe for the success of the Galileo programme. The bird will also test the most accurate atomic clock ever flown in space, which will contribute to the quality of the Galileo system.

Should on orbit testing prove successful, the operation of the Galileo system is planned sometime after 2010 – depending on the current issues over funding – compromising of a constellation of 30 satellites (27 operating and 3 reserves).

The Launch Vehicle:

The four stage Soyuz launch vehicle comprises of four boosters which are assembled around the central core. The booster’s RD-107A engines are powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene, the same propellants which are used on each of the lower three stages. Each engine has four combustion chambers and nozzles.

Three-axis flight control is carried out by aerofins (one per booster) and movable vernier thrusters (two per booster). Following lift-off, the boosters burn for 118 seconds and are then discarded.

The central core is similar in construction to the four boosters, with a hammer-head shape to accommodate the boosters. This stage has a RD-108A engine with four combustion chambers and nozzles and four vernier thrusters. The verniers are used for three-axis flight control once the boosters have separated.

Ignition of the central core and boosters occurs at an intermediate level of thrust on the launch pad 20 seconds before lift-off in order to monitor engine health parameters before the engines are throttled up and the vehicle leaves the pad. The core stage nominally burns for 286 seconds.

The third stage is linked to the central core by a lattice-work structure. Ignition of the third stage’s main engine occurs approximately two seconds before shutdown of the central core. The third stage engine’s thrust directly separates the stage from the central core.

This stage uses a RD-0110 engine with four combustion chambers and nozzles. Four vernier nozzles provide three-axis flight control. The third stage engine nominally burns for 240 seconds.

Flight qualified in 2000, the Fregat upper stage is an autonomous and flexible upper stage that is designed to operate as an orbital vehicle. It extends the capability of the lower three stages of the Soyuz vehicle to provide access to a full range of orbits (LEO, SSO, MEO, GTO, GEO and escape).

In order to provide the Fregat with high initial reliability, several flight-proven subsystems and components from previous spacecraft and rockets are incorporated into the upper stage. The upper stage consists of six spherical tanks (four for propellants, two for avionics) arrayed in a circle, with trusses passing through the tanks to provide structural support.

The stage is independent from the lower three stages, having its own guidance, navigation, control, tracking, and telemetry systems. The stage uses storable propellants (UDMH/NTO) and can be restarted up to 20 times in flight, thus enabling it to carry out complex mission profiles. It can provide the customer with 3-axis stabilization or spin-up of their spacecraft.

Following the separation of the three lower stages, the Fregat will carry out three burns. The third burn will transfer the spacecraft to required orbit and final change of inclination up to 56 degrees. The Fregat upper stage will then turn the nose module to stabilize it and will release the Giove-B spacecraft. Separation will occur 3 hours 45 min. after lift-off.


Galileo, the European satellite navigation system, is named after the famous Italian scientist Galileo Galilei. GIOVE stands for ‘Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element’ and also refers to Jupiter.

The first experimental satellite, GIOVE-A, was launched on Soyuz on 28 December 2005 and has been broadcasting Galileo signals from space since then.

The satellites are testing novel key technologies for the Galileo system, such as the high-precision passive maser atomic clock and the triple-channel transmission of navigation signals. Instruments will measure the radiation and spacecraft charging environments.

GIOVE-B will be able to transmit a signal adopting a specific standard (called MBOC), according to what was agreed only a few months ago by the European Union and the United States for their respective systems.

The 500kg satellite – contracted by a consortium lead by Astrium GmbH (Germany) as satellite prime, with Thales Alenia Space Italy as sub-contractor for satellite AIT – will have a lifespan of two years.

The bird has a cubical body of 1.3 m x 1.8 m x 1.65 m with a lift-off mass of 600 kg and a power demand of 700 W provided by two wings of sun-tracking solar arrays each 1.74 m long. The satellite uses a butane propulsion system with two tanks containing 25 kg each.

The most important payload elements are the atomic clocks: two rubidium atomic clocks with a stability of 10 nanoseconds per day, and one hydrogen passive maser clock, with a stability of 1 nanosecond per day. As the first maser clock embarked on a satellite, it will become the most stable clock in space.

Following GIOVE-B, a third satellite – already ordered – will be ready for launch in the second half of 2008. The four satellites that will be used for the primary In-Orbit Validation and that will be part of the 30-satellite constellation have also been ordered and are being built for launch in 2009.

Once the In-Orbit Validation is complete, the lessons learned will be used as the programme enters its Full Deployment phase. This will cover construction of the full ground infrastructure and the launch of the remaining 26 satellites to complete the constellation.

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