Europe’s Spaceport ready for three rockets
Last Friday, ESA signed a contract with the French space agency, CNES, to ensure that Europe’s Spaceport is ready to operate three launchers – Ariane, Soyuz and Vega.
The ceremony took place at the Guiana Space Centre (CSG: Centre Spatial Guyanais) in French Guiana. The contract was signed by Antonio Fabrizi, ESA Director of Launchers, and Joel Barre, Director of CSG, in the presence of Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA Director General, and Yannick d’Escatha, President of CNES.
This annual agreement sets the objectives, priorities and activities for 2011 at CSG. It is part of a frame contract signed in 2009, which guarantees that CNES, on behalf of the French government, makes the Spaceport available for ESA programmes and for the exploitation of Ariane, Soyuz and Vega up to 2013.
Designated as the year of the launchers for ESA, 2011 will see the first Soyuz flight from French Guiana. This will mark the start of building Europe’s Galileo navigation system constellation, with the first two satellites to be carried into orbit.
The first qualification flight of ESA’s new Vega small launcher is also planned for the end of the year. It will be followed by five missions to demonstrate the system's flexibility.
Since 1975, ESA has been actively contributing to the upkeep and operating costs of CSG, as a key element in Europe’s independent and guaranteed access to space. ESA also finances new facilities, such as launch complexes and industrial production facilities, for new launchers such as Vega or for the exploitation of Soyuz.