Arianespace successfully launched a Soyuz rocket from the Guiana Space Center (CSG) in French Guiana on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, at 11:02 p.m. local time. Its payload, the Pléiades 1B observation satellite, was placed into orbit shortly thereafter for the French space agency, CNES.
This marks the fourth successful launch of the venerable Soyuz rocket from CSG and Kazakhstan this year under the Starsem subsidiary, furthering the relationship between Europe and Russia.
Use of the Soyuz rocket is beneficial to Europe’s space flight efforts as it provides them with a medium-capacity launch vehicle.
The agency utilizes the Ariane 5 rocket for heavy-lift requirements and the Vega launch vehicle for lighter payloads. According to a press release issued by Arianespace, this makes Arianespace unique among launch service providers in that Arianespace is now:
… the only launch services company in the world capable of launching all types of payloads to all orbits, including communications, scientific and Earth observation satellites, as well as constellations, cargo missions to the International Space Station and more.
Pléiades 1B marks the ninth mission from CSG for 2012 with one more possible before the end of the year.
Launched from the Soyuz Launch Complex, or “ELS,” the Pléiades 1B is an Earth observation satellite for the French Ministry of Defense (the preferred Pléiades satellite customer). The Pléiades satellite was built by Astrium at its plant in Toulouse, France and is a one-ton class satellite. Further details were highlighted in the Arianespace press release:
Thales Alenia Space supplied the very-high-resolution imaging instruments and the image telemetry system. The Pléiades satellites offer a significant improvement in technology over previous generation satellites, based on their size, image resolution, high degree of agility in orbit, and ground transmission capacity.