New Soyuz upper stage passes ESA design review
8 November 1999Following completion of its ground qualification test programme in August, the new Fregat upper stage for the Russian Soyuz launch vehicle last week passed an ESA Design Review.
During their visit to Moscow, ESA representatives led by Cluster II project manager John Ellwood and Rudi Schmidt, Mars Express project manager, expressed their satisfaction with the progress being made with the Fregat after studying the results of exhaustive ground tests.
"This marks a major milestone towards Cluster II's dual launches next summer," said John Ellwood. "We are now looking forward to two successful Soyuz-Fregat flight tests next spring".
The Fregat upper stage is an essential component of the modified Soyuz launch vehicle. Developed from flight-proven elements - the main engine and the propulsion subsystem were successfully used during numerous interplanetary missions - the Fregat will provide three-axis attitude control and re-ignition capability.
Modifications are underway to adapt Launch Pad 6 at Baikonur Cosmodrome to accommodate Soyuz launchers equipped with the new upper stage. The maiden flight of the Soyuz-Fregat is scheduled for January 2000 with a Russian payload. It will be followed by a second mission that is to carry an instrumental payload .
These two missions will qualify the Soyuz-Fregat for operational service, clearing the way for two launches of ESA's Cluster II satellites in June and July 2000.
The ESA Mars Express mission will also be launched on a Soyuz-Fregat in mid-2003.
The Soyuz and its Fregat upper stage are provided by the Starsem consortium, which comprises Arianespace, Aerospatiale Matra and their Russian partners, the Samara Space Centre (TsSKB-Progress), and the Russian Aviation and Space Agency (RAKA).