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The Mobile Gantry for Soyuz' Launch Site at Kourou Spaceport Nears Completion. / June 17, 2010 /

Construction of the mobile gantry at Soyuz’ new launch site in French Guiana is moving into its final phase as this structure’s framework is now complete, and the metallic siding is being installed.

The gantry is one of the most visible differences at the Spaceport’s launch infrastructure from the long-operating Soyuz facilities at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.

It allows payloads to be installed on the launcher in the vertical position – as is performed with Ariane 5 and many other western launch vehicles, compared to the traditional horizontal integration performed with Russian launchers.

Total height of the gantry is 52 meters to the top of its curved roof, while its internal movable work platforms provide access to the Soyuz launcher at various levels up to a height of 36 meters.

The gantry is designed as a lightweight structure for its size, with a total weight – including its structural framework, work platforms and corrugated external panels – of approximately 800 metric tons.

It is being constructed near the gantry’s parked position, which is 80 meters from the launch pad. During a typical mission scenario, the structure will roll forward once a Soyuz vehicle has been erected on the launch pad. The gantry provides a protected environment for the installation of Soyuz payloads, as well as for the checkout of fully-integrated vehicles.

The Soyuz gantry’s construction is managed by the French CNES space agency (which oversees operations and infrastructure at the Spaceport), and includes Rheinmetall Italy, along with the KBOM General Engineering Design Bureau and MIR – two of the Russian companies involved in developing the new Soyuz launch site.

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