January 19, 2005

Russia and Europe Sign Space Pact

MOSCOW (AFP) -- Russia and the European Space Agency (ESA) signed an agreement allowing Russia to use ESA's sites for space launches and allowing the two sides to freely exchange research and development information.

The agreement was signed here by ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain and Russian Space Agency chief Anatoly Perminov. Both sides hailed the accord as a great achievement that required four years of tough talks.

The European side will allow Russia to conduct space launches from its space center in Kourou, French Guiana.

"The project for launching Soyuz from Kourou is only a part of a grand project that leads the way to many others," the Russian space chief said at the signing ceremony.

They also signed a launcher agreement in which the two will share information on designing new launchers and fuels, information that was once closely guarded by both sides.

"This agreement opens the door for joint development of new launchers," Dordain said.

He said the two sides are studying the option of developing new reusable launchers and brand new propulsion systems.

Russia conducted the majority of space launches last year, according to Russian officials, carrying out 42.6 percent of launches compared to 29.6 percent by the United States, 14.8 by China and just 5.6 percent by the ESA itself, ahead of India's 1.9 percent share.

The first launch of a Russian Soyuz craft, which also service the International Space Station, from French Guiana is tentatively scheduled for 2007, Dordain said.