Soyuz operations phase at Guiana Space Center kicked off
Jean-Yves Le Gall, Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace, and Anatoly Perminov, Director General of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, signed the supply contract for the first four Soyuz launch vehicles to be launched from the Guiana Space Center CSG in Kourou, French Guiana, starting in 2008, within the exploitation phase of the “Soyuz at CSG” programme of ESA.
The ceremony in Moscow was attended by the French Prime-Minister Dominique de Villepin and the Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.
Coming less than a year after the go-ahead for the development of the “Soyuz at CSG” programme of ESA, this latest step consolidates the European-Russian partnership on Soyuz, now organized in a two-pronged approach.
First, Soyuz launches from Baikonur under the responsibility of Starsem, a joint subsidiary of EADS/Arianespace (50%) and their Russian partners (50%). To date, Starsem has carried out 15 launches from Baikonur, all successful, for scientific, communications and Galileo spacecraft. At least one third of these launches was performed in the interests of the ESA programs, starting with two Cluster II launches, and the latest launch with, the Galileo GIOVE-A satellite in December last year. Starsem is planning three launches in 2006, one of them being the ESA/Eumetsat meteorological satellite called MetOp, and three more in 2007.
Secondly, Soyuz launches from the Guiana Space Center, under the responsibility of Arianespace, within the exploitation phase of the Soyuz at CSG programme. A Soyuz launch pad is now being built in French Guiana through an optional programme of the European Space Agency (the Soyuz at CSG programme) with Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Spain as participating member states, and the financial participation of Arianespace. The overall programme worth a total of 344 million euros (2002 e.c.) and is managed by ESA with the French space agency CNES as prime contractor, and Arianespace in charge of the subcontract covering the Russian deliveries.
The Soyuz launcher is built by TsSKB-Progress in Samara, Russia, with the Fregat Upper Stage produced by the Lavochkin Scientific and Production Association in Moscow and the Russain ground infrastructure produced and designed by KBOM, Moscow. Dominique de Villepin, Prime-Minister of France, visited Lavochkin in the course of his official visit to Russia and met the company’s management.
The first Soyuz launch from the Guiana Space Center is slated for November 2008. The French company Arianespace has already signed several launch contracts for Soyuz from CSG which will round out the company's family of launchers, alongside Ariane 5 and Vega, in accordance with the European policy of launchers adopted by the ESA’s Ministerial Council that took place in December 2005.