The launch by mid-2009 of the first six 700kg (1,540lb) second-generation Globalstar satellites will be the second mission for the Arianespace/Starsem Soyuz 2-1a rocket from its new operational site at the European Space Agency's French Guiana spaceport.The first flight of the Soyuz 2-1a, a variant of the Samara Space Center-built Soyuz 2, from its new site near Sinnamary town in French Guiana, which replicates Russia's Baikonur Soyuz launch infrastructure, is expected in March or April 2009.

The Soyuz 2-1a has new digital controls, for improved navigation accuracy and can use the larger ST fairing. On its first Sinnamary launch it will carry an Earth observation payload for French space agency CNES. The 2-1a's maiden flight was in November 2004 from Russia's Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

The Franco-Italian joint venture Thales Alenia Space-built second-generation satellites are to provide mobile communications specialist Globalstar's customers with worldwide long-term satellite voice and data services.European launch provider Arianespace and its Starsem subsidiary have been awarded the service and solutions contract for four launches placing all 24 of Globalstar's second-generation satellites into a circular low Earth orbit of 940km (583miles) altitude at an inclination of 52°, with an option for four additional launches.

From February to November 1999 Starsem orbited 24 satellites for Globalstar's first-generation constellation and on 30 May the company launched four replacement spacecraft for the mobile communications specialist, using a Soyuz with a Fregat upper stage. A second Starsem launch of four first-generation replacement satellites is planned later this year.

Arianespace is preparing for its end of September launch of its Ariane 5 GS mission to loft 2,500kg (5,500lb) Intelsat 11, which is to provide direct-to-home broadcasting and data networking services to Latin America, and 2,375kg data services spacecraft Optus D2, both built by Orbital Sciences Corporation.

Source: Flight International