Soyuz flies to geosynchronous orbit

Soyuz has just completed its first launch to geosynchronous transfer orbit from Kourou, French Guiana, carrying Hispasat 36W-1, a commercial Spanish commsat, to space.  Normally, Ariane V would have been used for the flight, but the mighty rocket is booked out for a few years; Hispasat got to fly much sooner by selecting the Soyuz.

Other than the very distinctive conical shape of the rocket with its unique booster configuration, Soyuz has another feature distinguishing it from the other boosters that fly from Kourou — its bright orange plume.  All the other vehicles that fly from here include solid propellant — Vega’s first three stages are purely solid, and Ariane V features a pair of large solid rocket motors.  But Soyuz is all kerosene and LOX, so the plume is bright and short.

There is one intriguing difference to Soyuz operations out of Kourou — although the rocket is assembled horizontally, per its design, the payload is integrated vertically, per normal Arianespace operations and per the requirements of the payload.  (Russia has always favored horizontal integration, but the rest of the world generally favors vertical integration.  As with every engineering decision, there are trade-offs, and neither choice is fundamentally “right”.)  So the rocket rolls to the pad without a payload, and then the payload is added.  Arianespace released this lovely video showing the highlights of vehicle assembly:

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