Eurockot's first commercial launch took place in May 2000; CryoSat will be the sixth such launch, while the Russian Federal government also recently flew its own Earth Observation satellite on a Rockot in August this year.
"A total of 157 SS-19s have flown to date, with no failures in the last 20 years," Freeborn adds. "Khrunichev have ten SS-19s in storage at their Moscow plant at any one time, drained of fuel and taken care of to prevent any degradation. That leaves around 150 still to be flown we would have to be pretty successful to run out in the near future, with our business plan being to launch up to two per year. We have assurances from the Russian government that the Rockots will be good to fly until at least 2015, and envisage that could be prolonged to 2020 or later." Meanwhile new Breeze-KM upper stages are built at Khrunichev's same plant, and shipped the 800 kilometres up to Plesetsk separately from the SS-19 and the satellite payload. The satellite is mated to the Breeze-KM at a purpose-built integration facility established by Eurockot at the Cosmodrome, then the combined satellite and upper stage is affixed to its waiting SS-19.
"The actual SS-19 hardware remains untouched," Freeborn explains. "It was originally designed to launch from a buried launch container silo and this is still the case, except the launch container is now above the ground and has the Breeze-KM on top.
"In addition because every satellite is different, the one-off sensor and integration devices needed
Contact: Mariangela D'Acunto
European Space Agency