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    KOUROU LAUNCHES TO ELEVATE RUSSIA-EU COOPERATION TO NEW LEVEL

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    MOSCOW, February 5 (RIA NOVOSTI) - The decision to launch Russia's Soyuz space rockets from the Kourou space center (French Guiana) became an entirely new milestone of the Russia-European Union space partnership. This was disclosed to RIA Novosti by Sergei Gorbunov, spokesman for the Russian Aerospace Agency.

    In his words, it took Russia and the EU several years to make this decision, which was coordinated February 4 by the European Space Agency (ESA) council at the ministerial level. Russia perceives this decision as particularly important because it would thus receive parity orders several years in advance; moreover, Russia will be able to orbit its spacecraft from an equatorial region; at the same time, EU countries have received an excellent Russian medium-class rocket, Gorbunov stressed.

    It will take an estimated 314 million euros to build a launch pad and to create the required infrastructure for orbiting Russia's Soyuz-ST launch vehicles. France plans to set aside more than 50 percent of this sum total.

    Talking to RIA Novosti, a source at the Russian Aerospace Agency, who is involved in this project, said that France's Ariane Space company will provide 121 million euros for Russia's aerospace enterprises taking part in the project. Another 193 million euros will be awarded in the form of contracts to European companies responsible for expanding the launch facility's infrastructure. Russia has already received the first EU tranche, the source added.

    Commenting on the decision to launch Soyuz spacecraft from the Kourou space center, Alain Fournier-Sicre, ESA representative in Russia, told RIA Novosti over the phone from Paris that the ESA had received the go-ahead, and that it counted on successful cooperation for the benefit of Russia and EU countries.

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