Launch News Arianespace Soyuz-STB flight VS12 with Galileo FOC-5/6, September 10/11, 2015

Galactic Penguin SST

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Jan 27, 2011
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Hong Kong
The roll-out of Europe's own satellite navigation system continues today with the gas pedal now fully pushed back for the mass satellite deployment phase to start years later than planned!

ESA and the European Union's Galileo satellite navigation system has been suffering from lack of funding and periods of bad luck with power problems on at least one of the first 4 "in orbit validation" satellites, then thanks to Russian wiring problems on the Fregat upper stage the next two satellites were placed in wrong orbits that took ESA some effort to move them back into partly usable places.

Well, at least the latest launch of the 3rd and 4th Full Operational Capability (FOC) satellites went without a hitch back in March, and the deployment speed is finally going up! Today marks the launch of the 5th and 6th FOC satellites and will boost the constellation up to 10 satellites. Another 4 will be launched this December and early next year on 2 Soyuz rockets, then the Ariane 5 will take over with 3 quadruple satellite launches planned over the next 2-3 years to finish Europe's own GPS.

Good luck! :hailprobe:




Launch location:

Kourou ELS 5°18'18"N 52°50'02"W


Launch dates and times:

{colsp=7}Launch times (updated)
Time Zone | Australia - Sydney/AEST | Moscow / MSK/ UTC+3 | CEDT/ UTC+2 | Universal / UTC | French Guiana | Washington / EDT Launch time: |12:08:10|05:08:10|04:08:10|02:08:10|23:08:10|22:08:10

on: | Sep. 11, 2015 | Sep. 11, 2015 | Sep. 11, 2015 | Sep. 11, 2015 | Sep. 10, 2015 | Sep. 10, 2015

[highlight][eventTimer]2015-09-11 02:08:10?before|after;%dd% Days %hh% Hours %mm% Minutes %ss% Seconds %c%[/eventTimer] Galileo FOC-5/6 Launch[/highlight]​

Live Coverage




Galileo FOC-5/6 navigation satellites


The Galileo satellite navigation system will consist of a total of 30 spacecraft in three planes in medium Earth orbit, which will each be occupied by nine satellites, and with three spares satellites distributed on the three orbital planes. At an altitude of 23,616 kilometers and an inclination of 56 degrees, the system will provide accurate positioning data to users as far north as 75 degrees longitude.

Although similar in design to the American GPS system and the Russian GLONASS navigation network, Galileo-FOC will be under the control of strictly civilian organizations. Galileo is the first joint program to be shared between the European Space Agency and the European Union.

In January 2010 the consortium consisting of OHB-System GmbH and SSTL was selected to built the first 14 Galileo-FOC (Galileo-Full Operational Capability) satellites of the system. OHB-System will act as prime contractor, build the busses while SSTL will provide the payloads. In January 2012, eight more satellites were ordered.


Orbit| Medium-Earth orbit, altitude 23522 km, inclination 55.040°
Weight at launch|730 kg
Size (with solar wings stowed)|2.5 x 1.2 x 1.1 m
Span (with solar wings deployed)|14.74 m
Available power|1420 watts
Design life|more than 12 years
Prime contractor|OHB-System (platform) / SSTL (assembly and testing)
Navigation payload|
  • Two Passive Hydrogen Maser atomic clocks
  • Two Rubidium atomic clocks
  • Clock monitoring and control unit
  • Navigation signal generator unit (E5, E6, E1 signals)
  • L-band antenna for navigation signal transmission
  • C-band antenna for up-link signal detection
  • Two S-band antennas for telemetry and tele-commands
  • Search and rescue antenna


Launch Vehicle:


Prime contractor:​
  • Samara Space Sentre (Energia Holding enterprise)
GRAU Index:​
  • 14A14
| 51.1 m

| max 10.3 m

Liftoff mass:​
| 313 metric tonnes

Payload mass:​
| up to 7835 kg (a launch to LEO from Plesetsk)

1st stage (boosters B, V, G, D):​
  • 4 X RD-107 engines
  • Propellants (T-1 Kerosene and LOX)
  • Thrust/ISP in vacuum - / 320.2 s
  • Thrust/ISP at sea level 85.6 tonnes / 263.3 s
2nd stage (core A):​
  • 1 X RD-108 engine
  • Propellants (T-1 Kerosene and LOX)
  • Thrust/ISP in vacuum 94 tonnes / 320.6 s
  • Thrust/ISP at sea level 80.8 tonnes / 257.7 s
3rd stage (block I):​
  • 1 X RD-0124 engine
  • Propellants (T-1 Kerosene and LOX)
  • Thrust/ISP in vacuum 30.00 tonnes / 359 s
Upper Stage:​
  • GRAU Index: -
  • Common Name: Fregat (meaning Frigate)
  • Designer & Manufacturer: Lavochkin Association (NPO)
  • Dimensions: Length 2.4 m, Diameter (max) 3.350 m
  • Empty Mass 930 kg
  • Propellants 5250 kg max
  • Main Engine: 1 X S5.92
  • Thrust in vacuum 2.0 tonnes of force (full power)
  • Thrust in vacuum 1.4 tonnes of force (small power)
  • ISP 333.2 s
Payload Fairing:​
  • Diameter 3.7 m
  • Length 7.7 m



The launch vehicle's reliability standings

According to

Vehicle     Successes/Tries Realzd Pred  Consc. Last     Dates    
                             Rate  Rate* Succes Fail    
Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat 17    19    .89  .86      3    08/22/14 2006-

Ascent profile



Weather Forecast for Kourou, French Guiana on September 10, 2015 (11 p.m.)

A few passing clouds. Low 23C. Winds E at 10 to 15 km/h.

Time|Temps|Dew Point|Relative Humidity|Precip|Snow|Cloud cover|Pressure|Wind|Weather
11 PM|26°C|23°C|87%|4%|0%|17%|1013 hPa|6 km/h E|



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The little seven did it again! It's coasting in orbit waiting for the 2º burn of the Fregat.

Galactic Penguin SST

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Jan 27, 2011
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Good to see the Galileo constellation is another step closer to be used by my mobile phone! :thumbup:



Fazanavard فضانورد
Apr 5, 2015
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Observing the Fregat upper stage with Galileo 9 and 10 manoeuvering into transfer orbit, just 22 minutes after launch


Large JPG image
Fregat upper stage with Galileo 9 and 10 after shadow exit, 11 Sep 2015, 2:30:12 UTC

Last night (11 Sep 2015) at 2:08:10 UT, ESA and Roskosmos launched a Soyuz from Kourou, French Guyana, with the new navigation satellites Galileo 9 and 10. The payloads are intended for a circular MEO orbit at an altitude of about 23 522 km

Cees Bassa alerted observers in Europe to the fact that the Fregat upper stage (with payloads still attached) would be visible over Europe during it's initial orbit insertion burn, exiting Earth shadow near 02:30 UT at an altitude of about 400 km altitude while cruising over Germany/Denmark. Engine cut-off for this stage of the launch would be 2 minutes later near 02:31:40 UT

This burn brought the Fregat stage and payloads in a ballistic transfer trajectory. A second burn about 3.5 hours after launch then inserted the stage and payloads in a circular orbit, upon which the payloads separated and the upper stage was de-orbitted.

Both Cees and I managed to observe the Fregat near 02:30 UT. This was about 22 minutes after the launch. Cees observed from Drente in the Northeast of the Netherlands(closer to the trajectory and with better observing conditions), while I observed from Cronesteyn Polder at the edge of Leiden in the West of the Netherlands.

Observing conditions were mediocre at my location: the sky was hazy, and light pollution a problem at lower elevations (it can be seen as an orange glow in the image above).

After exiting Earth shadow near 02:30:00 UT at about 45 degrees elevation in Ursa major, the Fregat stage was easily seen by the naked eye as an object of magnitude +2.

Above is one of my images, a 4-second exposure (Canon EOS 60D, EF 2.5/50mm lens, 800 ISO) starting at 02:30:12 UT.

Descending towards the Northeastern horizon the object became fainter, until I lost it in the light pollution and haze about a minute later.

Cees managed to image a developing hazy envelope around the trail low above the horizon (when it was already invisible to me), which is related to engine shut-down near 02:31:40 UT.

Soyuz-Fregat VS12; Insertion burn visible from Northern Europe

10 Sep 2015

A Soyuz is scheduled to launch at 2015-09-11T02:08:10 from Guiana
and will put two Galileo satellites in orbit. The insertion of
the payload into the transfer orbit may be visible from Europe.

The VS12 launch
kit (
reports that the Fregat upper stage will shut-down at 23m32s
after launch. This is essentially identical to the shut-down
reported for the VS03
launch (,
for which JSpOC has orbital elements of Galileo-FM3
[38857/12055A] while in the 20x23250_at_56deg transfer orbit.

Adjusting those elements for the launch time of VS12 yields these
elements for the transfer orbit.
1 84001U 14900A   15254.15045429  .00000000  00000-0  00000-0 0    07
2 84001  55.9763 327.1061 6365096  57.0615  62.9644  3.56407484    01

This orbit predicts a shadow exit at 02:30:05UT when the payload
is above the border between Germany and Denmark. At this time the
Fregat is still in powered flight. The insertion burn is
predicted to and at 02:31:32UT.

It is unclear what visual effects the burn and the shutdown may
have, but observers in Northern Europe are well placed to observe
what ever may be visible.

10 Sep 2015

I was trying to estimate the final MEO orbit when Cees mailed to seesat his

Here his estimation of just after MEO insertion orbit (copied from last

Cees estimation
1 84001U 14900A   15254.15045429  .00000000  00000-0  00000-0 0    07
2 84001  55.9763 327.1061 6365096  57.0615  62.9644  3.56407484    01

I've taken the freedom to modify a bit the inclination to match press kit's

Cees estimation2                                       202 X 23248 km
1 84002U 14902A   15254.15045429 0.00000000  00000-0  00000+0 0    09
2 84002  57.3940 327.1061 6365096  57.0615  62.9644  3.56407484    05

And here the final orbit estimation:

GALILEO 9-10 estimation                              23559 X 23593 km
1 70001U 15501A   15254.13069444 0.00000000  00000-0  00000+0 0    00
2 70001  57.3942 325.1154 0005535 231.4658 300.1046  1.67457620    00

Not clear why my TLE (the last one) is about 2 degrees off of RAAN (its my
fault). This is rought estimation taken from #40545 initial orbit and
adapted for this launch.

Fri, 11 Sep 2015

The VS12 Fregat upperstage with Galileo 9 and 10 was seen from site
4171. The object was easily picked up at eclipse egress. The
brightness then noticably decreased and was lost visually at about 10
deg elevation. The track was close to my 84001 estimate.

Pictures taken with the DSLR show the brightness decrease, and then
what appears to be venting:


The video camera also caught the Fregat upperstage. Using a 12mm F/1.2
lens, I get these measurements:
99451 15 754A   4171 G 20150911023006684 17 25 0652872+642672 28 S
99451 15 754A   4171 G 20150911023008745 17 25 0702895+630694 28 S
99451 15 754A   4171 G 20150911023011280 17 25 0713728+612964 28 S
99451 15 754A   4171 G 20150911023013882 17 25 0723122+595253 28 S
99451 15 754A   4171 G 20150911023016363 17 25 0730835+582219 28 S
99451 15 754A   4171 G 20150911023018745 17 25 0737295+565821 28 S
99451 15 754A   4171 G 20150911023020999 17 25 0742887+554285 28 S
99451 15 754A   4171 G 20150911023025579 17 25 0752235+531942 28 S
99451 15 754A   4171 G 20150911023028444 17 25 0757114+515572 28 S
99451 15 754A   4171 G 20150911023031662 17 25 0802082+502779 28 S
99451 15 754A   4171 G 20150911023035142 17 25 0806577+485919 28 S
99451 15 754A   4171 G 20150911023037646 17 25 0809465+475921 28 S

Starting with the 84001 orbit estimate, I get this approximate orbit:
1 99451U 15754A   15254.15045429  .00000000  00000-0  00000-0 0    00
2 99451  56.1728 327.1568 6345896  58.7557  62.4526  3.55304038    05
# 20150911.10-20150911.10, 12 measurements, 0.020 deg rms

11 Sep 2015

A source within ESA tells me this was not venting, as that happens only much
later in the timeline. So this must have been something related to engine cut-off.

Soyuz VS12, Weak Aurora, Airglow And Zodiacal Light


Taken by Chris Kranich on September 11, 2015 @ Near Kiel, SH, Germany

Camera Used: Unavailable Unavailable
Exposure Time: Unavailable
Aperture: f/2.8
ISO: 4000
Date Taken: 2015:09:11 20:53:51

Last night we again had a very weak aurora that was barely visible to the naked eye. But the airglow was quite intense and faintly visible. At 2:31UT (4:31 CEST) the Soyuz spacecraft appeared over the eastern horizon moving towards Mars and Venus low over the horizon and right through the beautiful morning zodiacal light which was well visible to my eyes.
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