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    First Soyuz launch from Kourou set for 2009 - Perminov

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    The first launch of a Soyuz carrier rocket from a space center near Kourou in French Guiana will be conducted in 2009, Russia's space chief said on Friday.

    PARIS, November 16 (RIA Novosti) - The first launch of a Soyuz carrier rocket from a space center near Kourou in French Guiana will be conducted in 2009, Russia's space chief said on Friday.

    "The first Soyuz [carrier rocket] will lift off from Kourou in 2009," said Anatoly Perminov, head of Russia's Federal Space Agency, who is currently attending a meeting of the Russian-French commission on cooperation in space research.

    The Kourou launch site is intended mainly for the launch of geostationary satellites. Its proximity to the equator will enable the Soyuz-ST to orbit heavier satellites than when launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan, and Plesetsk in northern Russia.

    Under a contract with the French satellite launch firm Arianespace, signed in June, the Soyuz will have a separate launch pad near Sinnamari, a village ten kilometers (6 miles) north of the site used for the Ariane-5, the main European-made booster.

    Launches of Soyuz spacecraft are the key part of the Russian-French program of cooperation in space exploration.

    "Among the European countries, Russia has the most active cooperation with France in the sphere of space exploration," Perminov said.

    Among areas of cooperation between the countries' space sectors, Russia's space chief highlighted the development of a new-generation carrier rocket until 2020, and France's participation in the development of an advanced piloted spacecraft, designed by Russia's Energia space corporation.

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