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FCube facility enters operations with fueling of Soyuz Fregat upper stage
by Staff Writers
Kourou, French Guiana (ESA) Sep 02, 2015

File image.

Processing has been completed for the initial Soyuz Fregat upper stage to be handled in the Spaceport's Fregat Fueling Facility (FCube) - the newest site in French Guiana to support Arianespace's sustained operational cadence. This milestone Fregat will be used for the upcoming Arianespace medium-lift Soyuz mission, which is set for September 10 with two European Galileo navigation satellites.

The FCube was developed to reduce the time required to "top off" Fregat upper stages, which takes several weeks as part of Soyuz launch campaigns. It also frees up another Spaceport facility previously used for Fregat upper stage fueling operations - the Spaceport's S3 building, making the S3 facility more available for the processing of customer spacecraft to be lofted by the various members of Arianespace's launch vehicle family.

Qualified to Class 300,000 clean room conditions, the FCube is tailored for Fregat upper stage fueling in a process that involves the loading of UDMH and N2O4 storable propellants, along with N2H4 for attitude control, and helium for propellant tank pressurization. With Arianespace's overall mission flexibility in mind, the FCube also could be used in the future for fueling small-sized satellite payloads.

The FCube consists of two structures: one building that serves as the remote control center and includes a zone where fueling operators are suited up in their protective clothing; and the other with the Fregat fueling hall, along with the storage for propellant and gases, and areas to hold support and spare equipment.

Fregat is an autonomous and flexible upper stage that extends the Russian-built Soyuz' capability to perform a full range of missions (to medium-Earth orbit, Sun-synchronous orbit, geostationary transfer orbit and Earth escape trajectories), and can be restarted up to 20 times in flight - enabling it to carry out complex flight profiles.

The Fregat upper stage is manufactured by NPO Lavochkin, which is part of Soyuz' Russian industrial team. RKTs-Progress (the Samara Space Center) is responsible for the design, development, and manufacture of Soyuz' three lower stages and payload fairing, as well as for integrating the launch vehicle stages and handling flight operations.

With the first Fregat having now been fueled in the FCube, this upper stage was moved across the Spaceport today to the S3 facility for Flight VS12's next phase of payload integration. While in the S3 building, the two Galileo satellites and their dispenser system will be integrated on Fregat, followed by their encapsulation in Soyuz' payload fairing to create the launcher's "upper composite."

The completed upper composite will then be ready for transfer to the Spaceport's ELS launch complex, where it will be installed atop Flight VS12's Soyuz, enabling the nighttime liftoff on a September 10 mission lasting just under 3 hours, 48 minutes.

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