On October 21, 2011 at 10:30 UTC the Russian Soyuz-2.1b (Soyuz-ST) rocket-carrier for the first time was launched from the Kourou space center in French Guiana.
The rocket is to orbit two Galileo navigation system satellites. The Soyuz ST is a modification of the three-stage Soyuz-2 rocket with Fregat booster, adapted for launch in the conditions prevalent in Kourou at the Guiana space center (Center Spatiale Guianese) where there is high heat and humidity.
The rocket is carrying special equipment allowing the engines to be switched off from earth – if necessary; the rocket’s flight can be controlled by an operator. The rocket is fitted with a radar transponder allowing its location to be monitored and controlled in flight.
The satellites on board will be deployed as part of the European Galileo navigation system. At present, two test satellites launched in 2005 and 2008 are working in orbit.