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PARIS, October 20 (Itar-Tass) —— The first launch of the Russian carrier rocket Soyuz-ST-B will take place at the Kourou space centre in French Guiana.
The historical launch, which will orbit two satellites for the European navigation system Galileo, is scheduled for 07:34 local time (10:34 universal time).
The first time in history the renowned Russian rocket will blast off from a place outside the former Soviet Union.
In early June, St. Petersburg's marine port shipped a special container with cone fairings and propellant components, as well as Soyuz carrier rockets under Russian-French project "Soyuz at CSG".
The European Space Agency (ESA) set up the programme "Soyuz at the Guiana Space Centre (CSG)" to bolster collaboration with Russia on launch vehicles. The programme is organised as follows:
-- ESA is the contracting authority and programme manager, and provides the Soyuz Launch Complex facilities to Arianespace.
-- The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) bears overall responsibility for the programme on the Russian side, and coordinates the activities of the Russian industry involved in the programme.
-- The French space agency CNES is the project prime contractor and system architect for the Soyuz launch system at CSG.
-- Arianespace is responsible for the supply of Russian systems to CSG, coordination and support of the Russian activities during the development phase. Arianespace will be the Soyuz-ST launch operator at CSG for the operational phase.
Arianespace Chairman and CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall said earlier the first Soyuz would be launched from the spaceport this year. "By all appearances, the launch will take place in the summer of 2011," he said earlier.
The construction of the launch pad cost 350 million euros and took six years. Currently, 150 Russian engineers and technicians working at the space centre and their French colleagues are finishing pre-commissioning preparations. Equipment trial runs have begun lately.
The use of Kourou will allow Soyuz rockets to carry 50 percent more payload compared to those launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
The commissioning of the new launch paid at Kourou will increase the number of launches from 10 now to 12 a year.
The first Soyuz launch was initially scheduled for 2009 but was postponed because of delays in the construction of the launching pad for the Russian rocket.
In November 2009, two Soyuz rockets were placed aboard the MN Colibri roll-on/roll-off cargo ship at St. Petersburg to be taken to Pariacabo near Kourou. Russia's Soyuz-TM carrier rocket was then scheduled to blast off from Kourou in May 2010. However the launch was postponed.
In 1964 the French Government chose Kourou, from 14 other sites, as a base from which to launch its satellites. When the European Space Agency came into being in 1975, the French Government offered to share its Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG) with ESA. For its part, ESA approved funding to upgrade the launch facilities at the CSG to prepare the Spaceport for the Ariane launchers under development.
Since then, ESA has continued to fund two thirds of the spaceport's annual budget to finance the operations and the investments needed to maintain the top level services provided by the Spaceport. 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.
Kourou's nearness to the equator makes it an ideal place for launches into geostationary transfer orbits as few changes have to be made to a satellite's trajectory. Launchers also profit from the "slingshot" effect, that is the energy created by the speed of the Earth's rotation around the axis of the Poles. This increases the speed of a launcher by 460 m per second. These important factors save fuel and money, and prolong the active life of satellites.
On November 7, 2003, Russian and French governments formally agreed to bring Soyuz to Kourou.
With the signing of a formal agreement between Arianespace and Russian Space Agency on April 11, 2005, the countdown for the construction of the launch pad officially started on April 26, 2005. According to the contract, the Moscow-based KBOM design bureau had to be ready for the "all out" tests of the launch pad with the Soyuz-2 (Soyuz-ST) rocket within 35 months from the beginning of the construction. The tests were expected to last for two months, culminating with the actual launch of the first mission sometime in 2008, or 37 months after the beginning of the construction. At the time, the excavation for the pad was expected to start at the end of the monsoon season of 2005. As many as 50 Soyuz launches were expected from Kourou over a 15-year period.
Arianespace is the world's leading launch Service & Solutions company, providing innovation to its customers since 1980. Backed by 24 shareholders and the European Space Agency, Arianespace offers an unrivalled family of launchers, comprising Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega, and an international workforce renowned for a culture of commitment and excellence. As of October 1, 2010, Arianespace had launched a total of 283 payloads, including more than half of all the commercial satellites now in service worldwide. It has a backlog of 22 Ariane 5 and 18 Soyuz launches, equal to more than three years of business.