Arianespace’s first two Soyuz launchers on their way to French Guiana
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.