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    FIRST DELEGATION OF RUSSIAN EXPERTS GOES TO KOUROU SPACE CENTER

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    MOSCOW, February 20 (RIA Novosti correspondent Alexander Kovalyov) - The first delegation of Russian experts has gone to the Kourou space center to coordinate the questions of the construction of a complex for launching Soyuz-2 rocket carriers. The group is headed by director general of the V. P. Barmin design bureau of the general engineering industry, Igor Barmin, RIA Novosti was told yesterday in the enterprise's press service.

    The experts will inspect the plot of land not far from the township of Sinnamary where infrastructure facilities and the Russian starting complex will be built. On February 26, they will take part in launching an Arian-5 rocket with a European space vehicle Rosetta which is meant for studying the core of the Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet.

    The construction of the Russian starting complex in French Guiana may start already in April 2004. Till that, the European contractors will have to complete a number of unspecific kinds of earth- and concrete-work, to build technological blocks, asphalt the roads, build a railway to the starting pad and assemble a security system. The first launch of the modernized Soyuz with a digital control system has been planned for the end of 2006.

    The Soyuz in Kourou Project possesses tremendous ballistic advantages. The proximity of the space center to the equator and the use of the effect from the Earth's rotation make it possible to put in orbit a payload of 3-3.2 tons against 1-1.5 tons that can be orbited in launches from the Baikonur space center.

    As to the financial aspects of the project, 121 million euros, out of 320-325 million of its cost, will be granted to Russia in the form of a credit under the guarantees of the European Commission. It will be paid off by the incomes from launches. This credit is necessary for modernizing the rocket, for adapting its use in Kourou and for building ground infrastructure.

    Modernized Soyuz rockets will be brought to French Guiana on Russian trains and in the holds of European ferries. Blocks of Russian rockets will be brought from the Progress design bureau in Samara on the Volga to St Petersburg where they will be loaded onto a special ferry belonging to the European company Arian Space.

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