November 8, 2009

Russian Rocket To Launch From French Guiana In 2010

A Russian rocket will next year for the first time blast off from a European launch pad in South America, officials said Saturday, as the first rockets headed for the site on board a ship.

Two Russian Soyuz rockets bound for the French seas left late Saturday.

They will arrive 15 days later ahead of the first planned launches next year of Soyuz rockets from France's launch site in French Guiana.

Arianespace Jean-Yves Le Gall, chief executive of French aerospace, told AFP, "We are in line for the first launch in the second quarter of next year."

Didier Coulon said the first launch could take place as early as April.

He says the first satellite to be launched by a Soyuz from French Guiana will be the Hylas telecommunications satellite of British firm Avanti Communications.

According to the company, the satellite will deliver broadband and corporate data network services across Europe.

Two other such launches are planned for 2010.

The first Soyuz launch had been planned for 2009 but was delayed due to hold-ups in the delivery of the infrastructure that the rocket needs in order to function.

Launching Russian rockets so close to the United States is likely to send a strong message about Russia's continued role in space.

French Guiana's closeness to the equator also enables heavier payloads -- three tons compared with 1.7 tons from Baikonur -- as launches can gain extra momentum from the Earth's own spinning motion.