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RUSSIA, FRANCE TO SIGN CONTRACT FOR BUILDING SOYUZ LAUNCH SITE IN KOUROU

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MOSCOW, March 29 (RIA Novosti) - On eve of the Cosmonautics Day, marked in Russia on April 12, the Russian Space Agency (Roskosmos) will sign a contract with the French company Arianespace for building the Soyuz launch site at the Kourou space center in French Guiana (South America), Roskosmos chief Anatoli Perminov said on Tuesday.

"On April 11 we intend to sign a contract for building a launch site for our Soyuz ships at the Kourou cosmodrome," Perminov reported.

The site for commercial Soyuz launches at the Guiana space center will cost about 344 million euros, he noted.

Owing to the equatorial location of the space center, rockets will be able to orbit heavier payloads than from other cosmodromes.

The realization of the project will help Russia substantially expand the use of the Soyuz carrier rockets on the world market of launch services.

The first Soyuz launch from Kourou may occur in the end of 2007.

It was expected earlier that commercial Soyuz-ST launches from Kourou would continue for ten years. The development program includes the creation of the Soyuz launch site at the Guiana Space Center, development of carriers and their adaptation to the local conditions.

The project is realized on the basis of the Russian-French intergovernmental agreement signed in November 2003.

The project was initiated in 1998 by the State Scientific-Industrial Space Rocket Center TsSKB-Progress jointly with the Russian-French company Starsem. It was established by Roskosmos, TsSKB-Progress, EADS (European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company) and Arianespace (France).

The Russian-French joint venture Starsem has been instructed to handle the exclusive commercial service of Soyuz-ST. Soyuz development and flying proficiency in the configurations Soyuz-2-1b and Soyuz-2-1b launch vehicles with acceleration unit Fregat and nose cone ST is the responsibility of Roskosmos until their launches from the Guiana Space Center.

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