Soyuz Lifts off with 6 Globalstar Satellites

Soyuz on the PadCredit :  Roscosmos

Soyuz on the Pad
Credit : Roscosmos

After a 24 hour delay to allow high level winds at the Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan to subside, a Soyuz 2-1a rocket blasted off into the night sky at 16:24 UTC carrying the final 6 satellites of Globalstar’s second generation, 24 bird constellation.

After separation from the third stage,   the restartable Fregat upperstage will deliver the satellites to a circularized 52 degree orbit where they will be dispensed two at time. Each satellite weighs approximately 650 kg,  and will orbit at an altitude of 920 km.  Completing its mission, the Fregat will fire a final time to send itself to an atmospheric re-entry.

Today’s launch comes as major milestone on a long and winding path for Globalstar which saw one of its first launches in 1998,  end in disaster with the failure of the Zenit 2 launch vehicle and the destruction of 12 satellites.  With the collapse of the satellite telephone industry in 2000 in the face of the build out of the terrestrial, tower based cell phone model,  Globalstar joined fellow travellers Iridium and Orbcomm in bankruptcy court, filing for Chapter 11 in 2002.

Completion of the constellation will allow the restructured and now Covington, Louisiana based company to round out its planned coverage map and offer its full range of services, which include both satellite telephone communications as well as data messaging services.   For the outdoor adventure enthusiast, a subsidiary offers the SPOT messenger service, perhaps the closest thing we currently have to the “beam up my a**  out of here” option in Star Trek.  SPOT, like the similar Epirb, allows travellers in remote locations, say on the overturned hull of a catamaran in the middle of the Atlantic, to place a one way call for help which is automatically routed to the appropriate rescue service around the world.  Particularly loquacious individuals can also add additional information such as “sinking, and sharks, ”  with the addition of a smart phone and blue tooth, or purpose-built text input handset.

SPOT currently boasts more than 2,000 rescues.

Today’s launch is officially recognized as the 1,799th  flight for the Soyuz rocket, and is its last scheduled commercial mission out of Baikonur.  Future launches under the Starsem / Arianespace partnership will take place at the CSG space center in French Guiana, which is set to host the first Ariane V launch of 2013 tomorrow between 9:36 and 10:20 pm UTC.

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