Baikonur Cosmodrome's Launch Pad no. 6 was alive with activity today as a Soyuz was rolled out to perform the final Arianespace/Starsem mission currently contracted by Globalstar for its second-generation satellite constellation, which provides mobile satellite voice and data services.
Following procedures employed at Baikonur Cosmodrome since the space age's birth, the Soyuz with its six-satellite payload was transferred horizontally on a transporter/erector rail car from its assembly and integration building to the launch site. The vehicle was then raised to the vertical position and suspended over the launch pad by four support arms.
This mission is scheduled for a nighttime liftoff on February 5 and uses the same modernized Soyuz that Arianespace operates from French Guiana. It follows three similar Soyuz launches performed from Baikonur Cosmodrome by the Starsem affiliate for Arianespace in October 2010, July 2011 and December 2011, and will complete Globalstar's plan to orbit 24 second-generation satellites.
Designated Flight ST26, the February 5 mission will be Starsem's 26th launch since the affiliate's history-making inaugural Soyuz commercial flight in 1999, which lofted four satellites for Globalstar's first-generation constellation.
Flight ST26 will have a nominal duration of 1 hour, 40 minutes, with the six satellites being separated from their dispenser system in a two-step process. The Globalstar spacecraft weigh approximately 700 kg. each, and are to be injected into a circular phasing orbit, inclined 52 degrees.
Arianespace and Starsem have played an important role in deployment of the Globalstar constellations. Prior to the missions with its second-generation satellites, Starsem performed eight flights from 1999 to 2007 that orbited 32 first-generation spacecraft, weighing 450 kg. each.