Heavylift / Breakbulk
Efis Air • Saudia Cargo - Small steps lead to outer space
The GSA Efis Air, which is a member of the ECS Group, recently carried out the delivery of the fourth and last stage of Europe’s Ariane rocket, which is scheduled to lift-off on its next mission on 5 June. Another transportation job related to the past as well as the future of space exploration was carried out by Saudia Cargo, which transported the space capsule «Almaz».
The Excalibur Almaz, a so-called re-usable return vehicle and the only space capsule to have been in space twice, made its first ever journey to the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia recently. The capsule was shipped and trucked to East Midlands airport from the place where its journey started, on the Isle of Man. Not many people realise that the self-governing British crown dependency in the Irish Sea is one of the largest investors in space travel, after the USA, Russia and China.
Strive to go where no carrier has gone
Saudia Cargo took charge of the consignment and flew it from East Midlands airport to Jeddah on 28 March, from where it was on-forwarded to Riyadh. Meticulous planning was necessary to ensure the safe passage of the capsule to its final destination. The Excalibur Almaz RRV will be exhibited at a science fair in Riyadh and will also be taken to schools for space education sessions.
The historical capsule Excalibur Almaz RRV undertook its first flight as part of the Cosmos 929 spacecraft, which flew in orbit from 17 July to 18 August 1977. After that it flew again on 30 March 1978. This important flight – designated Cosmos 998 – demonstrated the space capsule’s reusability. Only the space shuttle systems of the USA and the Soviet Union / Russia have made more journeys into space. Hayman Burhan, of the communications department of the Saudi Arabian flag carrier’s airfreight unit Saudia Cargo, said that the firm was «honoured to move this wonderful piece of engineering. We always strive to go where no other carrier has gone before.»
Lucrative business for sensitive goods
Efis Air in turn, which is a member of the ECS Group, has been in active this lucrative segment for a long time. The GSA recently arranged for the delivery of the fourth and last stage of the Ariane rocket from Europe to French Guiana, on the northern coast of South America.
The sensitive cargo, which weighed approximately 10 t, had to be maintained at a constant temperature of between 25°C and 27°C throughout the entire transportation process. Efis Air was able to successfully achieve this – despite the fact that the temperature at Vatry airport, near Paris, where the flight departed, was –1°C, and the outside temperature awaiting the shipment when it arrived in the Guianese capital city of Cayenne stood at 26°C.
Efis Air chartered an Ilyushin IL-76 freighter for the flight. The company’s operations manager, Irina Boutry, accompanied the section on the journey. Efis has previously arranged for the movement of space rocket stages to Cape Canaveral in the USA. It is currently also working on another project, due to be carried out later in 2013, to transport a similar shipment for the space industry, this time to the Baikonur space station (Kazakhstan).
Alain Boussard, the managing director of Efis Air, said that his company is «very happy to be involved in such an important project for Europe’s Ariane space project. This is a business field in which we continue to demonstrate a high level of expertise. We’re confident of further expanding our activities for the aerospace industry in 2013, as well as in the longer term.»
A long list of successful missions
The next Ariane 5 mission is scheduled for 5 June. The last time the strongest European satellite-launching rocket took off was 7 February, when it was launched from Kourou (French Guiana). It carried a satellite on board then that was launched into space. The European space programme has been operational since 1996 and has successfully completed 64 out of 68 jobs. Scientific, technical, financial and political entities from ten European countries are shareholders in Paris-based Arianespace, a commercial satellite-launching company. The stakes are held in France (60.12%), Germany (18.62%), Italy (9.36%), Belgium (3.15%), Switzerland (2.51%), Sweden (2.3%), Spain (2.01%), Netherlands (1.82%), Norway (0.1%) and Denmark (0.01%).
A space programme with a future
Excalibur Almaz is a private aviation and space travel firm based in Douglas, the capital of the Isle of Man, a self-governing British crown dependency in the Irish Sea. It also has branch offices in Houston (USA) and Moscow (Russia). Its aim is to carry out space missions that go beyond orbiting the earth. Its first project is headed for the moon, and later endeavours have their sights on objects further afield. It will deploy space ships that are based on the re-usable return vehicles deployed in the Soviet-era Russian Mercury programme. The first flight of one of the six modernised space ships that it owns is expected to be carried out in about 2015.