The Soyuz with Europe’s Metop-B weather satellite is now on the launch pad at Baikonur Cosmodrome, where it is being readied for liftoff on September 17 in a mission performed by Arianespace’s Starsem affiliate.
This medium-lift workhorse rolled out in the morning hours today at the Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and was raised into position on the launch pad by its rail car transporter/erector.
With this major step completed, the pre-flight activities that follow include checkout and countdown rehearsal for Soyuz’ lower three stages, a countdown rehearsal for the Metop-B payload and the launcher’s Fregat upper stage, then the final chronology leading to liftoff at 10:28 p.m. local time on Monday. The mission will last 1 hr. 9 min., with Metop-B being deployed into a Sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude between 800-850 km.
Metop-B – which has a liftoff mass of approximately 4,085 kg. – is the second in a series of dedicated polar-orbiting meteorological spacecraft to be operated by EUMETSAT (European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites). These platforms are procured on behalf of EUMETSAT by the European Space Agency from an Astrium-led European industrial consortium, and they include instruments delivered by the French CNES space agency, as well as the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate have played a pivotal role in the deployment of EUMETSAT satellites, which enable weather and climate-related satellite data, images and products to be provided around the clock.
Following Metop-B’s launch by Soyuz, it will join the nearly identical Metop-A spacecraft lofted by Starsem in October 2006 on another Soyuz mission from Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Date: Sep 17, 2012