May 11, 2011

Soyuz Ready To Launch From New Space Base In October

A spokesman for launch operators Arianespace said on Tuesday that the maiden launch of the veteran Soviet-Russian rocket Soyuz from Europe's space base in South America has been scheduled for October.

Spokesman Mario de Lepine said, "Right now we are looking at mid-October" for the first launch.

He said Soyuz will carry the first two satellites in Europe's Galileo navigation system, the competitor to the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS).

The European Space Agency (ESA) and Russia both agreed to deploy Soyuz at Kourou, French Guiana, which is under a 2003 accord to provide Arianespace with a medium-sized launcher.

A ceremony was held on Saturday to mark the launch pad handover.

Soyuz traces its lineage to the pioneering days of space, from launchers that were once used for Sputnik in 1957.

Soyuz has over 1,700 launches and is considered the most used rocket in history.  It has only been launched from Russia's bases at Baikonur in Kazakhstan and Plesetsk, Russia.

Saturday's ceremony in Kourou saw a stone from Baikonur sealed at the launch pad to symbolize the links between the two sites.

Soyuz will be the only form of human transportation to and from the International Space Station (ISS) once NASA retires its space shuttle program later this summer.

ESA said the infrastructure at Kourou has been designed so that it can be adapted for human spaceflight if needed.

The Soyuz-ST model that will be launched from Kourou will be able to take nearly 3.3 tons of cargo into geostationary transfer orbit.

ESA's Ariane 5 can place up to 10.4 tons in low Earth orbit.


Image Caption: Soyuz on launch pad. Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2011


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