Soyuz ST launch from Kourou, French Guiana

2 x Galileo | Soyuz STB/Fregat

Lift Off Time/Launch Window
(Subject to change)
NET December 05, 2021 – 00:19:20 UTC
NET December 04, 2021 21:19:20 GFT
Mission Name
2 x Galileo / VS-26
Launch Provider
(What rocket company is launching it?)
(Who’s paying for this?)
European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA)
Soyuz ST-B with Fregat-MT upper stage
Launch Location
“Ensemble de Lancement Soyouz” (ELS), Kourou, French Guiana, France
Payload mass
1,603 kg (3,534 lb)
Where is/are the satellite(s) going?
Medium Earth Orbit23,222 km (14,430 mi), 56° inclination
Will they be attempting to recover the first stage?
No, this is not a capability of Soyuz rockets
Where will the first stage land?
The center core and side boosters will crash into the Atlantic Ocean
Will they be attempting to recover the fairings?
No, this is not a capability of Soyuz
Are these fairings new?
How’s the weather looking?
This will be the:
123rd orbital launch attempt of 2021
– 26th launch of a Soyuz ST rocket

– 13th launch for Arianespace in 2021
– 150th mission launched by Arianespace for European institutions
Where to watch
Official livestream (if available)

What Does All This Mean?

Arianespace will be launching two more navigation satellites on a Soyuz rocket as part of the EU’s Galileo navigation system. The two satellites are going to a medium Earth orbit. The Soyuz version is ST-B, one of the two versions that can be launched from ESA’s launch site in French Guiana.

Galileo satellite
Galileo satellite (Credit: picture-alliance/dpa/ASA/P.Carril)

This flight was postponed from 2020, due to quarantine situations at the “cosmodrome”, according to a Russian press release. It was further postponed for 24 hours due to a tracking vessel not being in the correct position, according to Roscosmos. The launch was delayed once again on December 4 UTC due to weather conditions for another 24 hours.

What Is Galileo FOC?

Galileo FOC satellites are part of the “Full Operational Capability” phase of the program. Operational Galileo FOC satellites began launching in 2014. System services became available on December 15, 2016.

This is the European Union’s fully civilian Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). Galileo was designed to be available – if (for any reason) the US NAVSTAR (GPS) or Russian GLONASS systems were not available to the general public.

The satellites operate in 3 orbital planes, equally spaced apart from each other. They are each at an altitude of 23,222 km (14,430 mi), with an inclination of 56°.

Galileo, MEO planes
Galileo MEO planes (Credit: picture-alliance/dpa/ASA/P.Carril)

The first test satellite for Galileo, GIOVE-A was launched on December 28, 2005. The first fully operational constellation is expected to consist of 24 satellites, and is expected to be complete in 2021, i.e. with this launch.

The two satellites are known as FM23 and FM24. FM23 is also designated as GSAT0223 and is nicknamed “Patrick”. It is a UK-built satellite. FM24 is also designated as GSAT0224 and is nicknamed “Shriya”. It is provided by Norway. There have been suggestions that FM23 was being delayed to a later flight, but Arianespace’s press kit confirms that it is on this flight.

There are ten more planned FOC satellites after this mission.

Does My Device Support Galileo?

The following is a list of devices that are stated to support Galileo (clearly out of date – if your device is newer than any shown, assume it also supports Galileo):

  • Apple: iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 10/X
  • BQ: Aquaris V Plus, Aquaris V, Aquaris X5 Plus, Aquaris X, Aquaris X Pro
  • Google: Pixel 2, Google Pixel 2 XL
  • Huawei: P10 plus, Mate 9 pro, P10, Mate 10 Pro, Mate 9
  • LG: V30
  • Mediatek: Meizu Pro 7 Plus, Meizu Pro 7
  • Motorola: Moto X4
  • Nokia: Nokia 8
  • Oneplus: Oneplus5
  • Samsung: S8, S8+, Note 8
  • Sony: Xperia XZ Premium
  • Vernee: Apollo 2

How Does Galileo Compare With Other GNSS Constellations?


NAVSTAR (sometimes thought to be an acronym for “navigation Signal timing and ranging” or “navigation Satellite timing and ranging” – neither of these is correct), better known today as GPS, was the world’s first Global Navigation Satellite System. It was being considered by both the US Air Force and the US Navy as early as 1972. The first operational prototype was launched in 1974. The system became fully operational in 1995. The constellation is in a set of orbital planes at an altitude of 20,200 km with an inclination of 55°.


A Russian space-based navigation system was first commissioned in 1979, although this system (Cicada) operated in Low Earth Orbit. GLONASS, the current Russian navigation system, had its first satellite launched in 1982. It also became fully operational in 1995. It now consists of 24 satellites in a medium Earth orbit with an inclination of 64.8° to the equator. They are all in orbital planes with the same altitude of 19,100 km, giving them an orbital period of 11 hours, 15 minutes.


The BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (or BDS) was started in 1994, with satellites going into operation in 2000. This was BDS-1 (the BDS Demonstration System). BeiDou was principally developed for China’s own national security purposes, but also with the intention of making the system open to the world. Today, BeiDou is operating at BDS-3.

Beidou MEO satellites have a mean altitude of 27,878 km at an inclination of 55°. This system is unusual in that it also has 5 satellites in Geostationary Earth Orbit GEO i.e. 42,164 km, 0° inclination), and another 3 in Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO) at 42,164 km altitude with 55° inclination.


SystemNo. of planesAltitudeInclinationNo. of satellites
NAVSTAR/GPS620,180 km55°29 (as of 2020)
GLONASS319,100 km64.8° 24
BeiDou3 (MEO), 1 (GEO), 3 (IGSO)27,878 km55° 35 (27 MEO), 5 (GEO), 3 (IGSO)
Galileo323,222 km 56° 30 (after this launch)

What Is Soyuz ST-B?

Soyuz ST is the version of the Soyuz-2 rocket that has been adapted to launch from the European equatorial launch site in French Guiana. Soyuz ST-A and ST-B are the names that refer to the ST variants based on the Soyuz-2.1A and 2.1B variants respectively.

The Soyuz rocket (also known as R7) has been the workhorse of the Soviet/Russian space program since it first flew in 1966. The Soyuz version currently being used for most satellite launches is a four-stage launch vehicle, that consists of:

  • four side boosters
  • a central core
  • an upper stage which is common to all Soyuz rockets
  • an optional Fregat upper stage (which is used on this mission)
R7 Soyuz, rocket family, evolution
Evolution of the R7 / Soyuz rocket family (Credit: NASA / Peter Gorin / Emmanuel Dissais)

Side Boosters

Each side booster has a singular RD-107A engine, which runs on liquid oxygen and RP-1. The RP-1 tanks are located in the cylindrical part of the booster. The liquid oxygen tanks are in the conical section. Each engine has four combustion chambers and four nozzles, which is common in older Russian engines. This is related to the USSR inability to solve the problem of combustion instability in large nozzles.

During side booster separation, the boosters perform a well-known pattern, in which they peel off and cartwheel outwards. This is known as the “Korolev cross,” named after Sergei Korolev, the Chief Design Engineer of the USSR space program in the 1960s.

Korolev cross, side booster, stage separation
“Korolev cross” seen during side booster stage separation on a Soyuz launch. (Credit: ESA livestream)

Soyuz Center Core

The center core is fitted with one RD-108A engine, which also has four combustion chambers and four nozzles. The engine contains four attitude thrusters, used for three-axis flight control once the side boosters have separated. The center core also runs on RP-1 and LOx.

Third Stage

The third stage uses an RD-0124 engine on the Soyuz 2.1b. This closed cycle engine once runs on LOx and RP-1, producing 294 kN of thrust with an ISP of 359 seconds.

Rocket motor, RD-0124
RD-0124 motor at Salon-du-Bourget 2013. Credit: Pline

Soyuz Fregat Upper Stage

The Fregat upper stage is an autonomous and flexible stage that is designed to operate as an orbital vehicle. Fregat is independent of all the other stages. It has its own guidance, navigation, attitude control, tracking, and telemetry systems.

Fregat uses the S5.92 engine, which uses unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine (UDMH) for fuel and nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) for oxidizer. The engine can be restarted up to 50 times in flight.

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