The first two Soyuz launchers have left Russia for the Guiana Space Center, Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana (northern part of South America). The legendary Russian launcher will lift off from its new launch pad, now being completed, for the first time in 2010.
The two Soyuz launchers left St. Petersburg today aboard the MN Colibri, which is one of two ships used by Arianespace to transport Ariane launch vehicles from their European manufacturing sites to French Guiana. The ship will arrive in a port near Kourou, French Guiana, in about two weeks.
The two Soyuz rockets will be launched in 2010 from a new purpose-built Soyuz launch complex at the Guiana Space Center. Soyuz will become the medium-lift launcher in the Arianespace family, operated from the most modern launch site in the world alongside the Ariane 5 heavy-lift launcher, which just logged its 34th successful mission in a row.
"The shipment of our first two Soyuz launchers to French Guiana is a major milestone, taking us a step closer to its introduction in Arianespace's commercial service from Europe's Spaceport," said Arianespace Chairman and CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall. "With Soyuz, shortly to be joined by Vega, Arianespace will have a complete range of launch vehicles, enabling us to launch any payload, to any orbit, at any time."
Due to the virtually equatorial location of the Guiana Space Center, Soyuz is capable of lofting communications satellites weighing up to 3 metric tons into geostationary orbit - versus 1.8 metric tons from its current launch site in Baikonur. Soyuz is also perfectly suited for the launch of scientific or Earth observation spacecraft, as well as constellations of satellites. Arianespace has ordered 14 Soyuz launchers from Russian industry to date, and nearly all of these launches are already booked.
About Soyuz at the Guiana Space Center
The European Space Agency (ESA) set up the program "Soyuz at the Guiana Space Center (CSG)" to bolster collaboration with Russia on launch vehicles. The program is organized as follows:
* ESA is the contracting authority (and program management) and provides the Soyuz launch facilities for use by Arianespace.
* The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) bears overall responsibility for the program in Russia, and coordinates the activities of Russian companies involved in the program.
* French space agency CNES is program prime contractor and system architect for all facilities at the Guiana Space Center.
* Arianespace is responsible for the supply of Russian systems to CSG, and coordinates and supports Russian activities during the development phase. Arianespace will also be the Soyuz launch operator at the Guiana Space Center.
Arianespace is the world's leading launch Service & Solutions company, delivering innovative offers to its customers since 1980. Backed by its 23 shareholders and the European Space Agency, Arianespace proposes an unrivalled launcher family, comprising Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega, and an international workforce renowned for their culture of commitment and excellence. As of July 1, 2009, Arianespace had launched a total of 270 payloads, including more than half of all the commercial satellites now in service worldwide. It has a backlog of 25 Ariane 5 and 10 Soyuz launches, equal to three years of business.'