MOSCOW, May 18 (RIA Novosti) – Russia and France will carry out seven Soyuz-ST carrier rocket launches from the Kourou space center in French Guiana by the end of 2014, Russia’s Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said.
Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin and President of France’s Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) Jean-Yves Le Gall reaffirmed the launch schedule under the 2008 contract between Roscosmos and French space company Arianespace during a meeting in Moscow on Friday.
“The partners are planning to launch four Soyuz carrier rockets from the space center in French Guiana this year and three – in 2014,” Roscosmos spokesperson Anna Vedishcheva said.
The Kourou launch site is intended mainly for the launch of geostationary satellites. Its proximity to the Equator enables the Soyuz-ST to put into orbit heavier satellites than those launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan and Plesetsk in northern Russia.
Roscosmos and French satellite launch firm Arianespace signed a contract in 2008 to launch 10 Russian Soyuz-ST carrier rockets from Kourou.
The first launch was carried out in October 2011 placing two satellites of the Galileo global navigation satellite system (GNSS) in orbit.
The second launch orbited six satellites, including Europe’s dual-purpose observation satellite Pleiades 1B, in December 2011.
The third launch delivered two more Galileo satellites in orbit in October 2012.
The Soyuz-ST is a modification of the three-stage Soyuz-2 rocket with a Fregat upper stage adapted for launch in high heat and humidity prevalent at Kourou facility.