Soyuz rolls out for next South American launch

The second Soyuz rocket to fly from the commercial launch base in Kourou, French Guiana made a short but meaningful trip Monday when it was rolled from the assembly hangar to the pad and rotated to stand up vertically.

Liftoff is planned for Friday night at the precise moment of 9:03:08 p.m. EST (11:03 p.m. local time; 0203 GMT) from the Guiana Space Center on the northeastern coast of South America.

The venerable Russian launcher will head northward to reach a series of sun-synchronous orbits for deployment of three different payloads, initially releasing into a 432-mile circular-orbit the Pleiades 1 high-resolution Earth-imaging spacecraft to be used by the French military, then ejecting a cluster of four electronic eavesdropping spacecraft for France before maneuvering into a 379-mile circular perch to release an Earth observation craft for Chile.

The three-stage rocket was pieced together inside the hangar constructed at the launch complex, then transported to the pad this morning. The payloads, encapsulated in the rocket's nose cone, will be delivered to the pad and attached to the booster within the protective gantry.

Photo credit: Roscosmos

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