Soyuz launches the 13th OneWeb cluster
A Soyuz rocket continued the deployment of the OneWeb constellation with the first mission in 2022 lifting off on February 10 at 21:09 Moscow Time (1:09 p.m. EST). Launching from the near-equatorial launch site in French Guiana, it was the 13th OneWeb mission, boosting the overall number of spacecraft in the network from 394 to 428.
The 13th Soyuz mission with OneWeb satellites at a glance:
Preparations for launch
The 13th OneWeb mission had the designation VS27 according to Paris-based Arianespace venture, which manages Soyuz launches from the Guiana space center in South America.
The launch was previously planned for January 6, but it was delayed until February 10, 2022.
A transport plane with OneWeb satellites for the mission landed at the airport in Cayenne, French Guiana, on Jan. 14, 2022.
The active launch campaign for the mission started in French Guiana with the fueling of the Fregat upper stage on January 15 by a team of specialists from TsENKI ground infrastructure division at Roskosmos. On January 20, another group of engineers from RKTs Progress, which builds the Soyuz rocket family, was due at the center to start processing of the Soyuz ST-B vehicle.
The fueled Fregat was transferred from the FCube building to the S3B-NH assembly facility on February 1 and, the next day, the space tug was integrated with 34 satellites previously attached to a common payload dispenser. The assembly of the rocket's upper composite, including the Fregat, satellites and the payload fairing, was completed on February 4.
The rollout of the three-stage booster cluster to the launch pad took place on February 7, followed by the delivery and integration of the payload section with the rocket on the same day inside the movable service tower positioned on the pad. The integrated tests and dress rehearsals were conducted on February 8 and 9, clearing the vehicle for launch the next day.
OneWeb satellites for the 13th launch are being prepared in Kourou, French Guiana, in January 2022.
Launch profile of the 13 OneWeb mission
A Soyuz-2 (ST-B) rocket carrying a cluster of 34 OneWeb satellites lifted off from the ELS complex in Kourou, French Guiana, on Feb. 10, 2022, at 15:09:37 local time in French Guiana (1:09 p.m. EST, 21:09 Moscow Time).
After eight seconds of vertical ascent from the sea-side pad, the launch vehicle began tilting northward, heading over the Atlantic Ocean to align its ascent trajectory with a near-polar orbit inclined 87.77 degrees toward the plane of the Equator.
The four boosters of the first stage separated 1 minute 58 seconds into the flight, followed by the payload fairing splitting into two halves and dropping off 3 minutes and 37 seconds after the liftoff. The second (core) stage separated 4 minutes and 48 seconds in flight, moments after the third stage ignited its RD-0124 engine. The latter operated until 9 minutes and 24 seconds in flight, completing its burn just short of orbital velocity, which ensured the booster's immediate reentry over the Atlantic and a splashdown between Canada and Greenland.
In the meantime, the Fregat upper stage fired its engine for around four minutes, starting the maneuver 10 minutes and 24 seconds after launch. The engine burn formed the initial transfer orbit, which the stack climbed passively for around 43 minutes.
During the ascent of the Soyuz rocket and the most critical maneuvers of the Fregat upper stage, the mission was crossing the communications range of various ground stations from Guiana to Bermuda Islands to the Arctic Ocean, downlinking data about its status.
Upon reaching the apogee (highest point) of the transfer trajectory, 54 minutes and 15 seconds after launch, Fregat re-ignited its engine making its orbit circular at an altitude of around 1,000 kilometers.
The first pair of OneWeb satellites was released in opposite directions from their dispenser exactly one hour after launch, around the time, when the vehicle was within range of the Nova Norcia ground station in Australia.
In the following 15 minutes after the release of the first pair of satellites, Fregat performed a 15-second burn with its small attitude control thrusters getting in position for another release around three minutes later, this time of four satellites at the 1-hour 19-minute mark in the flight.
The Fregat then repeated its thruster firing and release routine seven more times, evenly distributing the quartets of satellites along their orbit, according to the following timeline:
The empty Fregat was programmed to initiate a braking maneuver with its main engine which was designed to push the stage on a disposal orbit, resulting in its quick destruction in the upper atmosphere 5 hours and 39 minutes after launch.
Payload arrangement for the OneWeb launch on the Soyuz rocket with 34 satellites. The satellites are attached to a 5.5-meter-tall, 1.7-meter-in-diameter adapter built by RUAG Space. Credit: Arianespace
Official logo for the 12th OneWeb mission. Credit: Arianespace
Soyuz rocket rolls out to launch pad in French Guiana on Feb. 7, 2022. Click to enlarge. Credit: Arianespace
Soyuz rocket arrives at launch pad in French Guiana on Feb. 7, 2022. Click to enlarge. Credit: Arianespace
Soyuz ST-B lifts off from French Guiana on Feb. 10, 2022. Click to enlarge. Credit: Arianespace