EADS Astrium Wants Euros for New Rocket

Aviation Week reports that EADS-Astrium is pushing Europe to fund the development of a new medium-lift launcher to replace the Soyuz 2 rocket that will begin operating later this year from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana:

Thanks to the extra lift afforded by this near-equatorial location, Soyuz 2 will be capable of orbiting most of the European Space Agency’s Earth observation satellites, as well as small telecom spacecraft up to 3.2 metric tons.

Soyuz will complement Europe’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 ECA and its new Vega light launch vehicle, due to enter service early next year.

“But in the long run, it would be surprising if Europe didn’t have its own [midsize] launcher,” Astrium Space Transportation Division CEO Alain Charmeau said recently at the division’s main development and production facility here. For one thing, he said, Russia is already working on a two-stage follow-on to Soyuz, for which contractors were selected early this month, and there’s no guarantee that Russia will be willing to share this capability indefinitely.

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