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Arianespace's first two Soyuz launchers on their way to French Guiana
The first two Soyuz launchers have left Russia for the Guiana Space Centre, Europes Spaceport in French Guiana (northern part of South America). The legendary Russian launcher will lift off from its new launch pad, now being completed, for the first time in 2010.
The two Soyuz launchers left St. Petersburg today aboard the MN Colibri, which is one of two ships used by Arianespace to transport Ariane launch vehicles from their European manufacturing sites to French Guiana.  The ship will arrive in a port near Kourou, French Guiana, in about two weeks.

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Building the Soyuz launch facility at Europe's Spaceport
Activity is continuing at the Guiana Space Centre (Centre Spatial Guyanais - CSG), Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana, as the Soyuz launch site takes shape. Soyuz is a medium-class launcher and its performance will perfectly complement that of the other ESA launchers, Ariane and Vega.

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The preparation of Soyuz' new operating base is continuing in French Guiana, where the ground-based infrastructure continues to take shape on its launch pad and inside the support facilities at Europe's Spaceport.
This site will support operations of the medium-lift Soyuz vehicle, which will join Arianespaces heavy-lift Ariane 5 and the future lightweight Vega in side-by-side operations from the Spaceport.

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Representatives of the Russian Federal Space Agency's (Roscosmos) Press Office and Arianespace's Public Affairs Office held their first working meeting of 2009 to discuss informational and communications policies for the upcoming operations of Soyuz from the Spaceport in French Guiana.
The January 20-21 meeting in Moscow covered such topics as procedures for accommodating the news media for Soyuz missions, along with the means of providing regular updates during launch campaigns for this medium-lift vehicle.  Joining the discussions on January 21 was Sergey Saveliev, the Deputy Head of Roscosmos.
Soyuz is scheduled to begin its operations from the Spaceport late this year, joining the heavy-lift Ariane 5 - which has been in service since the 1990s.  These two vehicles ultimately will be joined at the Spaceport by the lightweight Vega, providing a complete family of commercial launch vehicles operating from one of the world's most modern launch sites.

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To the Heavens From the Jungle's Edge
The driving force behind Kourou's development is Arianespace, a French company that began as a poor cousin to NASA nearly three decades ago. Today, it has edged past Boeing and Lockheed Martin to become the leading player in the $3.2 billion commercial-satellite-launching industry; it accounts for about half of all the tonnage sent into orbit for business purposes each year.

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The first launch of a Soyuz carrier rocket from a space centre near Kourou in French Guiana will be conducted in 2009, Russia's space chief said on Friday.
The Kourou launch site is intended mainly for the launch of geostationary satellites. Its proximity to the equator will enable the Soyuz-ST to orbit heavier satellites than when launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan, and Plesetsk in northern Russia.
Under a contract with the French satellite launch firm Arianespace, signed in June, the Soyuz will have a separate launch pad near Sinnamari, a village ten kilometres  north of the site used for the Ariane-5, the main European-made booster.

Source Novosti

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European launch provider Arianespace is only able to offer the Samara Space Centre-built Soyuz 2-1a rocket for launches from French Guiana and not the more powerful 2-1b version owing to launch complex infrastructure issues.
From the new 400 million Euro ($553.4 million) European Space Agency/CNES Soyuz launch complex near the town of Sinnamary in French Guiana the 2-1a can put 2,700kg  into geostationary transfer orbit and the 2-1b, 3,600kg.
The 2-1b achieves this with the new RD-124 third stage engine that uses kerosene that has a low tar level, which would require new infrastructure.

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R-7 Semyorka rocket
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The famed R-7 Semyorka rocket (NATO name, SS-6 Sapwood), designed by the legendary Russian engineer Sergei Korolev, has proved so dependable and sought-after that even fifty years after its first launch, it continues to be used for many jobs. One will be to launch payloads from a facility now under construction at the Kourou space centre in French Guiana.
The first launch vehicle in the Soyuz series went up in November 1963 (at that time a Voskhod lifted the spacecraft of the same name). A total of 1,160 launches have been made so far. The Soyuz-U is the most used modification of the vehicle (accounting for almost 820 launches). Currently the Soyuz-FG (with a Fregat booster) is manufactured in high quantities. It is designed to deliver human and scientific payloads into near-earth orbits.
The next stage of the R-7's upgrading was to digitise all control processes on board the launcher, improving its orbit injection accuracy almost ten-fold.  The size and number of junk-disposal areas were reduced. Testing and pre-launch preparations were automated further.
The new launcher first blasted off from the Plesetsk Space Centre in November 2004. Its second launch (from the Baikonur Space Centre in October 2006) successfully put into orbit the European Metop-A weather satellite. These launches made use of the so-called 1a modernization phase of the Soyuz-2: the third stage was newly designed but fitted out with an old engine (RD-0110).
A Soyuz-2 launched from Plesetsk in the same configuration on December 24 orbited a new communications satellite, called the Meridian. Three days later, a Soyuz-2-1b lifted off from Baikonur with an entirely new RD-0124 engine as its third stage and a Fregat booster. It put into orbit the French COROT (Convection Rotation and Planetary Transits) satellite to look for planets similar to the Earth outside the solar system. The launching of such a heavy spacecraft by the Soyuz was made possible by increasing the lifting capacity of the vehicle by almost one metric ton.
This summer, a Soyuz-2-1b is scheduled to go up from Plesetsk, too.  According to Colonel-General Vladimir Popovkin, commander of space forces, the Soyuz-2, once it is tested and adopted for service, will replace the currently employed medium-class Soyuz-U and Molniya-M launch vehicles.
The main distinction of the new launcher is that it is made of only Russian-manufactured components. It will launch from Plesetsk all medium-class payloads both current and planned for the next 10 to 15 years.
To carry out commercial launches from Kourou in French Guiana, the 1a phase of the Soyuz-2 is being modified into a Soyuz-ST derivative adapted to equatorial conditions (a different climate, sea transportation conditions, etc.). Another requirement is that parts of a spent launch vehicle must sink upon splashdown.    
The agreement between Russia and the European Union to build a Soyuz launch pad at Kourou was signed in February 2004. The project's budget is set at 314 million euros, with 121 million euros to go to the participating Russian companies.
The project's basic goal is to launch payloads into geotransitory and geostationary orbits. The first launch is to take place in 2008 and will orbit a telecommunications satellite from Optus, an Australian operator, to broadcast direct TV and carry Internet and telephone messages.
With the French Guiana space centre located close to the equator, the Russian rocket will be able to lift much heavier spacecraft than when launching from Baikonur and especially Plesetsk. This will offer more commercial opportunities for the Soyuz family of vehicles on the world market of launch services. The Soyuz-ST rocket meant for Kourou may also be used in manned programs.

Source Novosti

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French Guiana space centre
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52.77559W_5.23111N
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Latitude: 5.23111 Longitude: -52.77559

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The construction site of the Soyuz launch base in French Guiana was officially opened today by Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA Director General, Yannick d'Escatha, President of CNES, Jean-Yves Le Gall, Director General of Arianespace, and Anatoly Perminov, Head of Roscosmos.
 The ceremony took place in the presence of many French authorities and representatives of all the European and Russian entities contributing to the startup of the project.  

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