September 20, 2008

Russia Signs Rocket Contract With France

The Russian space agency will launch 10 carrier rockets at a French facility under a new contract with a French company, officials said Saturday.

Arianespace Chairman Jean-Yves Le Gall said the deal his French satellite launch firm signed Saturday with the Russian Federal Space Agency will allow the Russians to use its facilities in French Guiana for Soyuz-ST carrier rocket launches, RIA Novosti reported.

"The contract envisions the purchase of 10 Soyuz carrier rockets to be launched from the space center in (French) Guiana ... . The contract is estimated at a total of $300-$400 million," the chief executive officer said.

The French facility in South America is used primarily for geostationary satellite launches, but the first Soyuz launch is expected to take place late next year, Le Gall said.

RIA Novosti said the position of the French launch site near the equator should enable Russian spacecraft to transport heavier satellites than possible at current Russian launch sites.

The Russian news agency said the spacecraft involved in Saturday's agreement are the key component to the cooperative space exploration efforts between Russia and France.