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Space Transportation Science

New Soyuz Launch Facility Near the Equator 127

Posted by Soulskill
from the wish-we-could-do-that-space-thing dept.
tcd004 writes "Russian and French teams are currently hard at work in French Guiana on the northern coast of South America, building the first Soyuz launch facility in the Western Hemisphere. Soyuz rockets normally carry 3,500 pound payloads into orbit, but from the French Guiana spaceport, the rocket will have an added benefit of being near the equator where the Earth's spin makes launching slightly easier. This extra boost allows Soyuz to deliver a 6,600 pound payload into orbit. The first launches are scheduled for October."
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New Soyuz Launch Facility Near the Equator

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  • Building? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Leuf (918654) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @12:21AM (#36891468)
    Considering according to TFA they had a launch dry run back in May and launching in two months I don't think there's too much building going on at this point.
  • by WoTG (610710) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @12:34AM (#36891536) Homepage Journal

    If a space shuttle was launched from French Guiana, would the payload also have gone up 86%? Or does it not quite scale that way?

    • by Isaac-1 (233099) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @12:41AM (#36891544)

      Now can we change the orbital inclination of the ISS to something more sane?

      • Wouldn't that take a huge amount of fuel?

        • by WorBlux (1751716)
          No, since your near the equator the rocket starts off moving faster than it does away from the equator. Less fuel is need to lift a payload to the same orbit.
        • by vlm (69642)

          Wouldn't that take a huge amount of fuel?

          You're not fighting gravity, so ultra high Isp engines will work, all of which use huge amounts of power, then again, may as well do "something" with excess electrical power...

          Also ultra high ISP engines have another pleasant side effect of not really requiring a structural analysis... if the engine is only pushing with 5 pounds of force, the station is probably not going to crumble, saving a lot of structural analysis.

          The problem is, to save money, everything was cut, so the only purpose left for the stati

        • Yes, it would take a lot of fuel to change the orbit of the ISS. The real question is which orbit would you move it to? A polar orbit means that it would be passing through the polar particle streams (the Earth's magnetic field attracts charged particles and directs them to the poles. This is what causes the Auroras.). Essentially you'd be bombarding the occupants with radiation every 45 minutes. An equatorial orbit would have problems too. The earth bulges at the equator (and I imagine the atmosphere
        • by gblackwo (1087063)
          Changing the orbital inclination should not even be on the same scale of fuel cost as changing the orbital altitude.
          • According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], a change in inclination is the most costly type of changing your orbit.

            • by joggle (594025)

              Wikipedia is correct. That's exactly what I learned in orbital dynamics back in college.

              I don't know what issue the grandparent poster has with ISS' orbit. It's at this inclination to accommodate launches from Cape Canaveral and Russia. From Cape Canaveral, there's a very limited range of inclinations that are compatible with what the space shuttle can get to. This is because the shuttle wasn't allowed to fly over land after launch, rather it must head out to sea. It would also cost extra of the orbital pla

          • by Cyberax (705495)

            Plane change maneuvers are expensive like hell. They can actually be comparable to launching the space vessel anew.

        • by RockDoctor (15477)
          ... to change the orbital plane, it'd certainly take a quantity, but in the scheme of things, not a huge quantity. But unless I'm mistaken, the ISS has no propulsion of it's own, but relies on it's Russian cargo vessels to give it an orbital boost when necessary.

          So, if there is the thick end of 2 tonnes of extra lift available, then loading more fuel to boost the ISS orbit and simultaneously equate ( ? G ) it, should be doable, if desired.

          But given the 9-year timescale on hand, plus the availability of bo

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        More sane than what?

        • by IrquiM (471313)
          than current probably ;)
          • by vlm (69642)

            The inclination is crazy high because the russians only had a site at something like 45 degrees (roughly as far north as Wisconsin).

            There are two separate effects:

            1) The closer you are to the equator the more mass you can boost because the equator is spinning rather quickly... obviously about a timezone per hour...

            2) Out of inclination launches are possible, but they waste tons of fuel. You can launch into any inclination orbit from any latitude, it just costs a ton of fuel.

            Go play with Orbiter for awhile

            • obviously about a timezone per hour...

              I know what you're trying to say, but everywhere on earth moves at one timezone per hour.

              The point is, at the equator, the timezones are wider than anywhere else on earth.

              • obviously about a timezone per hour...

                I know what you're trying to say, but everywhere on earth moves at one timezone per hour.

                The point is, at the equator, the timezones are wider than anywhere else on earth.

                I know what you're saying, but what about at the poles?

            • by joggle (594025)

              If by out of inclination, you mean getting to an orbit where you have to change the orbit's inclination after initial launch you're absolutely correct (ie, launching from Florida to get to an orbit with zero degrees inclination).

              However, if you're launching into an orbit that passes over your launch site and it's at least reasonably pro-grade (going in the direction of the rotation of the earth) there's no additional cost. You still get the velocity boost from your launch location either way, with a slightl

      • The Guyana Soyuz launch facility is not prepared to launch Soyuz spacecrafts. It's prepared to launch Soyuz ROCKETS. The manned spacecraft and the rocket share the Soyuz name (and, of course, the Soyuz capsule is launched atop of a Soyuz rocket). Right now, there will be no manned launches from Guyana. So the ISS must keep its current orbit by now.

        • by Teancum (67324)

          Not quite. The reason why trips to the ISS are going to continue to be launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome is because the orbital inclination of the ISS was designed explicitly for vehicles launched from Kazakhstan. For crewed flights leaving from French Guyana, it would actually require even more fuel for the launch than if they left from Baikonur. This is called orbital mechanics, so not all things are equal.

          The reason why the Space Shuttle can make it to the ISS is because it has extra fuel that can

          • "BTW, changing the orbital inclination of the ISS at this point would need an act of God or some other divine miracle. "

            Or significantly advanced technology. - the original NCC1701 Enterprise could do it probably, and certainly the Next Generation Starfleet ships would have no problems

            • by Teancum (67324)

              Wake me up when we have more than a gram of anti-matter to make that possible.

    • by Vecanti (2384840)
      Exactly, and does that mean it would be impossible to launch a Soyuz rocket from the south pole?
      • by MacTO (1161105)

        The Soviets definitely had the launch capabilities for high northern latitudes (they launched satellites at 62.8 degress North). Whether Soyuz could do that with its typical payload, I don't know.

      • by SharpFang (651121)

        If you want it to hit Washington, then definitely yes. Russians have that variant covered to perfection.

      • No, you could launch a soyuz into polar orbit from the south pole. TFA doesn't state whether 'orbit' is low earth orbit or geostationary orbit. GEO from the south pole would be crazy anyway as GEO always ends up directly over the equator.
        • by EdZ (755139)
          It depends on whether you mean a geostationary orbit, or a geosynchronousorbit. Geostationary means you're limited to a circular orbit with a single inclination, geosynchronous can be any inclination and/or eccentricity, as long as a period is 24 hours.
    • by strack (1051390)
      i think its some sort of squared relation. i believe launching from the equator gives you about a 1000mph speed boost, and small amounts of added speed lead to large reductions in propellant mass.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @01:05AM (#36891652)

      Well, Cape Canaveral [wikipedia.org] is about 28 degrees latitude, while the Baikonur Cosmodrome [wikipedia.org] in Kazahkstan is 46 degrees. We'd gain something by going to the French Guiana facility's 5 degrees, but nowhere near as much. (The extra velocity kick from Earth's rotation is proportional to the cosine of latitude.)

    • by daem0n1x (748565) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @04:26AM (#36892452)

      Soyuz rockets normally carry 3,500 pound payloads into orbit.

      This extra boost allows Soyuz to deliver a 6,600 pound payload into orbit.

      What's puzzling me is, why would someone want to send all that money into orbit? And, if it's in French Guiana, why do they send British Pounds instead of Euros?

      • Its even better then burning down all the forests.

      • by robot256 (1635039)
        Dude, 6600 pounds is a really cheap payload. I'm surprised they can do anything with 3500 pounds now, that's like 10 bolts if you buy them from NASA. ;) ;)
    • by s122604 (1018036)
      Probably not nearly as much as a difference, Cape Canaveral Florida is a lot closer to the equator than the Russians' facility.
      although there would be some difference
    • The increase stated is the difference from launching in Russia. The Kennedy space center is about half way between the two so it already gets a good boost from the earth's spin. (Jules Vern knew this, that's why he had his space cannon located in Florida at almost the exact same spot in the novel "from the earth to the moon").

  • A bit ironic ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MacTO (1161105) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @12:44AM (#36891562)

    I know that it is far too early to tell what's going to happen with the U.S. space program, but I find it quite ironic that Russia managed to rebuild their manned and civilian space program within years of the political and economic collapse of the U.S.S.R. and that the U.S.A. is depending upon them even though the American economic collapse is minor in comparison.

    Now I've been out of the space exploration loop for a few years, but it strikes me that the U.S.A. does not have civilian or manned launch capabilities at the moment. That leaves the civilian program contracting out launches to the Russians, E.S.A., and their military. And quite frankly I don't see that changing in the near future since I don't think that they have the political will to change it.

    • by icebike (68054)

      I know that it is far too early to tell what's going to happen with the U.S. space program, but I find it quite ironic that Russia managed to rebuild their manned and civilian space program within years of the political and economic collapse of the U.S.S.R. and that the U.S.A. is depending upon them even though the American economic collapse is minor in comparison.

      The difference is that the US has chosen not to pursue the Shuttle program, so that the money can be spent on never ending social programs.
      Its purely a political choice, not a technical one. There is nothing preventing the US fro building additional shuttles with upgraded components, other than those that see it as a waste of money.

      Saturn V payload to low earth orbit was 262,000 lbs. Energia payload to LEO 220,462 lb, Shuttle payload to LEO is 53,600 lbs. Compared to Soyuz's 6,600 lbs, (even on the equat

      • you are mixing the wrong types of payload. you are comparing Saturn V the rocket, with Soyuz the capsule. Soyuz the rocket can take 16.000 lbs to LEO even from baikonur. The capacity mentioned in the article is the amount of payload that can be taken on board the soyuz capsule. Which also means that there isnt a 86% increase in payload, since you are conveniently forgetting the capsule it rides in.

        Also, if you want to talk about ironic, consider this, The ISS is placed in an orbit which was a compromise in

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        There is nothing preventing the US fro building additional shuttles with upgraded components, other than those that see it as a waste of money.

        That and because it would be insane as anything other than a jobs program.

      • by bluemonq (812827)

        The modern Soyuz-2 rocket has a payload of roughly 16,000 pounds from its current facilities. No idea where the 3,500 pounds is coming from.

      • by bluemonq (812827)

        Got cut off. Anyhow, if you want heavy-lift today, Proton gets you 45,000 pounds of payload up north. Beyond that, the Angara family is coming online in a few more years, getting you to 89,000 pounds. And if SpaceX is to be believed, they'll have a 120,000 pound lift ready for you around the same time.

      • The difference is that the US has chosen not to pursue the Shuttle program, so that the money can be spent on never ending social programs.

        Yes, social programs like 2 simultaneous wars halfway across the globe, and paying interest on the national debt.

        There ware good technical reasons to end the Shuttle program. The Shuttle configuration is flawed, and no amount of updated components is going to change that. It was time for a clean sheet.

        The US is on its way to being able to provide Saturn V-class launches again. Only this time it's a private company instead of NASA. That's not a bad thing.

        • by Tomato42 (2416694)
          2011 NASA budget: 19 billion
          2011 DoD budget: 708 billion
          • by Teancum (67324)

            I don't know the current budget, but some estimates [armscontrolwonk.com] of the NRO (National Reconnaissance Office) may be as high as $40 billion, with more realistic numbers being perhaps closer to $15-$20 billion. Keep in mind that nearly everything that the NRO does is for stuff that goes into space, and that the USAF has other vehicles which goes into space too that is beyond the NRO programs as well. This is "the other space agency" which is seldom talked about. Other federal departments also have their own independent

      • The difference is that the US has chosen not to pursue the Shuttle program, so that the money can be spent on never ending social programs.

        Nice flamebait, except that Russia has many more of those - it kept a lot which were inherited from the USSR, and is only slowly migrating them to something more "free market" (and even that doesn't go well with the populace - or at least the groups affected at any given time).

      • by IrquiM (471313)
        No, the difference is that Russia scrapped their shuttle programme, and continued with something cheaper they knew did the job required.
        • by thrich81 (1357561)
          I've never said this before, but mod this guy up! Exactly right -- the Russians built a vehicle that was damn near to a copy of the Shuttle, flew it once, then went back to building Soyuzes. They made their programmatic decision, the US made a different one. For everyone who bemoans the US shutting down the Shuttle and saying, "Now we have to have to buy rides from the Russians!", there is your reason. Now the US is making a similar decision, 30 years later.
          • Buran looked similar to the Shuttle, but the similarity ended there, because the concepts were radically different - Space Shuttle was a big engine with wings and a huge drop tank, Buran was a pure orbital plane and reentry vehicle and needed a real carrier rocket (Energia) that hauled it to the orbit.

      • by prefec2 (875483)

        As a government when I have to decide to provide health care to everyone or fly to the moon. I would decide for the health care plan. But the space program is not that expensive, that its cancellation can contribute much to social benefits. If the US want to save money they have to cut back their military budget. For a good figure on how big the budget should be in comparison to the GDP have a look at France, UK or Germany.

      • by Teancum (67324)

        The difference is that the US has chosen not to pursue the Shuttle program, so that the money can be spent on never ending social programs.

        The money has been there for American crewed spaceflight, and in fact nearly $100 billion have been spent on trying to come up with a successor to the Space Shuttle over the past four decades. Mind you that is on top of Shuttle operations and other parts of the manned spaceflight program. The problem is the lack of leadership to get something built as each new presidential administration seems to have its own idea on how to move on with crewed spaceflight. The list of vehicles that could have been used o

      • The difference is that the US has chosen not to pursue the Shuttle program, so that the money can be spent on never ending wars.

        There, I fixed that for you.

    • Now I've been out of the space exploration loop for a few years, but it strikes me that the U.S.A. does not have civilian or manned launch capabilities at the moment. That leaves the civilian program contracting out launches to the Russians, E.S.A., and their military. And quite frankly I don't see that changing in the near future since I don't think that they have the political will to change it.

      I think what you are trying to say is that the US has no capacity to put anything at all into orbit, which is

      • by MacTO (1161105)

        I was under the distinct impression that the US civilian space program was entirely reliant upon the space shuttle, and perfectly aware that the US military had launch capabilities (thus the 'and their military'). Of course I could be wrong about the US civilian space program because I've been cynical about anything coming out of NASA for two decades.

        As for NASA's ability to depend upon up and coming private contractors, I'll believe it when it happens. My apologies for the cynicism, but NASA is encased i

        • by Teancum (67324)

          Since the Challenger explosion, almost all payloads which could be placed upon EELVs (the Delta and Atlas series of rockets) has been pretty much standard practice for some time. Nearly all unmanned flights have been on these other launchers with the Shuttle being used most recently for things which simply require an astronaut.

          Yes, back in the early 1980's there was an effort to essentially kill almost all other launchers in favor of just using the Shuttle, under the unrealistic presumption that the Shuttl

    • by Frangible (881728) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @01:41AM (#36891776)
      This is because Russia has a superior and far more efficient form of government than we do.

      Head of space appropriations committee... Vladimir Putin
      Head of Federal Space Agency... Vladimir Putin
      Head of Department of Revenue... Vladimir Putin
      Space Agency Oversight Committee... Vladimir Putin
      Director of Cosmodrone Development... Vladimir Putin
      Soyuz Launch Officer... Vladimir Putin
      Cosmonauts No. 1 - 6... Vladimir Putin
      Women's Tennis Quality Oversight... Vladimir Putin

      And that, comrade, is why Russia won the space race.
    • by Uzull (16705)

      Even more ironic would be when US Cosmonauts have to enter French territory (French Guyana is part of France) and board a Russian launch vehicle.
      Do you have the appropriate travel documents???

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      That's easy to explain, we haven't yet HAD our collapse as we have been throwing money at it trying to keep the inevitable from becoming. You still have the student loan bubble yet to burst, and with so many students going from graduation to the unemployment line I figure it won't be long now, and then there is all the old retirees that got their nest eggs eaten up by Wall Street to deal with.

      Another poster talks about "never ending social programs" but I would argue that is the ONLY thing keeping us from

    • Rebuilding, yes. Advancing past the original line seems to be much harder, though. I have it from people I know who worked in that area only recently that they are really, really short of people qualified to do advanced engineering and science required to move on - because pay is shit (as it always is in Russia if you're a government worker), and all but the most patriotic would rather seek employment in Western countries. So don't worry too much. Brain drain is still there, and still does its job.

    • by prefec2 (875483)

      The US works hard on its next economic collapse. Maybe they are just preparing for a greater disaster. ;-)

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      The difference is that the USA is now just entering their political and economic collapse, which is why you see them shutting down their space program. Wait 20 years until the US is out of the mess they are in, and maybe they will revive their space program.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Didn't the US invade Grenada because Cubans built an airport?
    Reagan must be spinning in his ziggurat over this one and Monroe might just claw his way out!

    • by Alex Belits (437) *

      How your plans for Venezuela invasion are doing, bitches?

    • Don't joke about that! I have visions of Obama tapping his shoe on the UN security council table tomorrow morning, demanding that the French remove the Russian Rockets ASAP from the American continent, or there will be food renamings!
      • by prefec2 (875483)

        That would be great. Call them Belgian Fries. At least that would be the historical correct name. ;-) But I guess Obama has other things to do than to "invade" French Guiana. He has to prepare for bankruptcy. As the political class of the US tries to win this years "Most egotistic politician award". While French and German conservatives have shown great achievements in that area (e.g. selling weapons to Qaddafi and now bombing him. Or the great "our nuclear plants are save" talk which switched over night t

  • Retard system (Score:5, Insightful)

    by andresambrois (1235832) <andresambrois@gmaiBLUEl.com minus berry> on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @01:57AM (#36891852)
    I find it baffling that, in this day and age, one can still read news articles using the imperial system. About space travel, of all things.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by oobayly (1056050)

      Why, both systems work. In school we only used SI units, at home we used both (my Dad is a farmer and even though the Department of Agriculture used imperial, he used SI as he had a lot of German equipment). In uni (Aero engineering) I was taught both. Sure it can be an arse-ache to convert mass to volume in imperial, but you get a feel for the numbers.
      Besides, as long as you state what units you use, you can use any mixture safely* - I've described something as a metre by a yard (it wasn't quite square), a

      • by welshie (796807)
        Stating the units used: This doesn't stop the brain-dead UK Department of Transport stating that road signs denoting distance to road works should be measured in metres, and placed at 100 metre intervals, but stating the distance is yards, when it is in fact, metres. Still, I guess it's safer - metres are longer than yards, so if you stretch the definition of a yard to be 1 metre, the drivers get a few seconds more to react. This seems to have gone off-topic and road works signage is of little relevance to
        • by Archwyrm (670653)

          Maybe it is not such a bad thing calling a meter a yard (assuming you are actually using the length of a meter). Perhaps people are more attached to the names themselves than the actual unit and could be a way to get the last hold outs fully on metric. Reminds me of the Norwegian 'mile' which is 10 Km which is no doubt not not its historical distance.

          Of course, this can lead to some confusion: "Do you mean imperial yards or metric yards?" But this is already the case for tons.

      • by mbone (558574)

        Why, both systems work.

        You have obviously never had to deal with slugs or poundals, which means you haven't done much spaceflight math with English Units.

        • by oobayly (1056050)

          Assumption fail - they were regularly used and we were examined in both Imperial & SI. Maybe the reason I'm fairly happy using both is because I was too cheap to buy the newest edition of the textbooks for my course - I checked out old editions (aerodynamics, thermodynamics & structures) week after week for 2 years, and nobody else ever requested them as they were "out of date". The only difference was the units: slug, Rankine, psi etc. The format and layouts were almost identical.

          Out of my year, I'

    • Re:Retard system (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Laser Dan (707106) on Wednesday July 27, 2011 @02:52AM (#36892056)

      I find it baffling that, in this day and age, one can still read news articles using the imperial system. About space travel, of all things.

      Well 6,600 pounds is 2,994 kg, so I suspect that the actual value is 3,000 kg and it has been converted to pounds for for certain poor backwards readers.

    • I find it baffling that, in this day and age, one can still read news articles using the imperial system. About space travel, of all things.

      Eh, I know a subset of four human languages, a couple dozen* computer languages, and two measurement systems.

      I find that makes things easier for me, not harder.

      * oh, the agony of a base-12 approximation!

  • what experience the Russians have with corrosion in tropical environments. Perhaps they can bring along some Cuban advisors.
    • This is why the French, in French Guiana, are offering their assistance. We have quite a long experience of launching payload into orbit from Kourou with Ariane...

  • As commented by others the dry run was done - the building is finished and we use metric .. Here is the dry run news item: http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Launchers_Home/SEMYBDZ57NG_0.html [esa.int] There should be a launch before the end of the year.
  • I've tried to find an answer to this, but I haven't had much luck. Have we not launched an astronaut on a rocket since the start of the space shuttle program? I understand that the current NASA rockets carry only non-human payloads, but how long has it been since a NASA rocket last carried a human into space?
    • by kuldan (986242)
      As much as I remember, the last "rocket" Flight with a human Payload onboard before the Shuttle was Apollo 17. There was a "Human Spaceflight Gap" for a few years then as well as much as we have right now, only not as bad..
      • by Matt (78254)

        As much as I remember, the last "rocket" Flight with a human Payload onboard before the Shuttle was Apollo 17. There was a "Human Spaceflight Gap" for a few years then as well as much as we have right now, only not as bad..

        No. Apollo 17 [wikipedia.org] was the last flight on a Saturn V. Apollo-Soyuz [wikipedia.org], in July 1975 on a Saturn 1B, was the last NASA manned spaceflight before the first space shuttle flight [wikipedia.org], in April 1981. There were also three manned flights to Skylab in between those.

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