Countdown Begins for First Soyuz Launch From South America as Vega Debut Slips


Checking in on activities down at the European spaceport in Kourou, we find the rocket base is abuzz with activity. On Wednesday, an Ariane 5 successfully delivered two communications satellites to space. It was the rocket’s fifth mission of 2011; one more and it will match the number flown last year, which ended with Arianespace actually losing money.

Meanwhile, preparations are well along for the first Soyuz launch from the spaceport on Oct. 20. The venerable Russian rocket will launch the first two satellites in Europe’s Galileo navigational constellation.

And in related news, officials announced this week that the debut of Europe’s new Vega small satellite launcher will be delayed until January. It had been set to launch from Kourou in November or December.

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First Soyuz to Fly from Kourou in April 2010

soyuzlaunchsystem

Russian Soyuz-ST rocket launch from Kourou set for April 2010
RIA Novosti

The first launch of Russia’s Soyuz-ST carrier rocket from the Kourou space center in French Guiana has been scheduled for the beginning of April 2010, general director of the Progress design bureau said on Tuesday.

Soyuz-ST is a modernized version of the Soyuz-2 rocket developed by the Samara-based Progress design bureau specifically for launches from Kourou.

“Next year at the start of April we must ensure the first launch of a Soyuz-ST [carrier rocket]; the first three rockets are ready,” Alexander Kirilin said, adding that a ship carrying two rockets will leave the port in St. Petersburg on November 1.

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Russia Continues Movement Away from Baikonur

Russian rockets readied for South America launch
AFP

The maker of Russia’s Soyuz rockets said on Thursday it had finished building the first rockets due to be launched from South America pad in cooperation with the European Space Agency.

“The first two rockets are ready. They have got through all the tests and have been placed in the containers in which they will be delivered,” said the deputy head of TsSKB-Progress, Sergei Tyulevin, quoted by ITAR-TASS….

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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:

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Soyuz Effort Accelerates at Kourou; Russian Rocket Lifts German Spy Sat

The Russians Are Coming…to launch rockets from European base
AFP

“Today, though, the Guiana Space Centre (CSG) is girding for a new era when it will host Russian rockets and Russian engineers who just a short while ago were Europe’s space rivals.

“On Sunday, a freighter is due to dock in Cayenne bearing a first consignment of 150 containers of equipment to fit out a launch pad at CSG where, from the second half of 2009, the first “European” Soyuz is scheduled to blast into space.”

Russian Rocket Launches German Reconnaissance Satellite
Spaceflight Today

“The capstone of a fleet of German military satellites rocketed into space from Russia early Tuesday, completing a series of five launchings of spacecraft designed to scout locations around the world.

“The SAR-Lupe 5 satellite, a 1,700-pound craft (771-kg) outfitted with cloud-piercing and night-vision radar, launched aboard a Russian Kosmos 3M rocket at 0240 GMT Tuesday (10:40 p.m. EDT Monday), according to news reports.”

ATV Lifts Off from French Guiana

The Ariane 5 lifted off successfully at 04:03 UT Sunday from the European Spaceport in French Guiana carrying ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle. The robotic spacecraft, dubbed Jules Verne, is bound for the International Space Station to deliver 7 metric tons of equipment and supplies.

The spacecraft is scheduled to dock with ISS several weeks from now after the space shuttle Endeavour completes its construction mission. Endeavour is schedule for launch on March 11 and is schedule to stay 16 days at the station.

ATV will conduct system checks for several weeks, including two approaches to the orbital outpost as well as “escape” maneuvers to back away from the station. The tests are designed to verify software and prevent any collision with ISS.

“The two approach tests will give ESA, NASA and Rocket Space Corp. Energia time to critically examine the performance of ATV’s systems,” said Brian Smith, NASA’s lead ATV flight director. “ATV must pass these tests before it will be allowed to initiate the final rendezvous and docking. The tests have been designed to verify the systems vital to ensuring the safety of the ISS and its crew perform as expected.”