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    ESA DIRECTOR GENERAL: EUROPE WILL "MAKE A NEW STEP INTO SPACE" THANKS TO RUSSIAN SOYUZ

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    PARIS, February 5 (RIA Novosti corr. Andrei Nizamutdinov) - The leadership of the European Space Agency is satisfied with the decision on the approval of the program to finance space launches, taken yesterday at a session of the ESA Council on the level of ministers.

    Now Europe can fly high, the agency's Director General, Jean-Jacques Dordain said.

    In his opinion, coordination of the program of financing the project "European Guaranteed Access to Space" (EGAS) opens prospects for reliable supply of European space industry with a carrier of its own, Ariane. The start of financing the program of launches of Russian rockets Soyuz from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana will replenish the range of carriers with a reliable medium class rocket, thus opening possibilities for the ESA to work more successfully on the commercial launches market.

    Thanks to Soyuz, whose first start is scheduled for 2006, Europe together with its Russian partners can make a new important step into space, emphasized the ESA head.

    An ESA official spokesman, Franco Bonacina told RIA Novosti that 960 million euros were allocated to finance the EGAS program. The money is to be spent from 2005 to 2009.

    As for the Soyuz-Kourou project, it will be financed to the amount of 344 million euros. Over half of this sum will be provided by France, and the rest by its European partners - Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy and Switzerland.

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