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Arianespace Set To Commercialise Soyuz

Artist's view of a Soyuz/ST lifting off from the launch zone of the Soyuz Launch Complex (ELS), of the Guiana Space Centre (CSG), Europe's spaceport near Kourou, French Guiana. Credits: ESA-D. DUCROS.

Sydney, Australia (SPX) Dec 08, 2005
Plans for the first launch of an evolved Soyuz from French Guiana in 2008 are moving ahead smoothly, laying a key cornerstone in Arianespace's new total launch solutions strategy to win an even greater share of the market.

"We're completely on track for the first flight in 2008", says Jean-Yves Le Gall, the CEO of Arianespace, who was in Sydney this week to participate in SatCom Australia 2005, Australasia's leading satellite communications conference.

The cost of constructing the Soyuz launch facility (The site, called ELS, is located 13km northwest of the Ariane 5 launch site), and the modification of the rockets, is approximately 350 million Euros, and is being financed by the European Investment Bank, ESA member state budgets, and EU grants.

The Soyuz program is important for the overall implementation of European space policy with Russia, and for Europe's Research and Development and Innovation policy, the spearhead of the EU Lisbon strategy that is aimed at building a knowledge and innovation based European economy.

"The Soyuz is now available to the West and it's a question of how we're bringing that vehicle into the market, and making it available to the telecommunication industry. Its emerging from the shadows, as opposed to emerging from a laboratory", says Richard Bowles, Arianespace Representative Director, Singapore Asean Office, who spoke about emerging launch technologies at the SATCOM Australia 2005 conference.

The proven Soyuz (More than 1,680 missions have been performed by Soyuz launchers to orbit telecommunications, earth observation, weather, scientific missions, and manned flights since November 28, 1966) is currently being evolved (with the new Soyuz-2-1-a having already been qualified in November 2004 from Plesetsk, and the Soyuz-2-1-b to be qualified next year) to meet commercial market needs, offering payload lift capability of 4,100 to 5,500 kg into a 450 km circular orbit.

A new digital telemetry system for launch vehicle monitoring, enlargement of the rocket's fairing to 3.65 metres in diameter (the previous size was too small to hold communication payloads), a new control system allowing in-flight orbital plane change (all earlier R-7 derived vehicles flew a fixed trajectory, with the launch table rotated before launch to the appropriate azimuth), and the construction of a new upper, third stage (with an enhanced HM7B cryogenic engine) are some of the main changes that have been/must still be made to create the new Soyuz ST.

"We need some adaptations of the Soyuz mainly because of the difference in atmospheric conditions between Kazakhstan and French Guiana", says Le Gall. "In Kazakhstan, its very dry, and in French Guiana, we have a lot of rain, and so we need to adapt the launch vehicle to protect it against nature".

�There are numerous compelling reasons for establishing a new launch site in Kourou, French Guiana,� Bowles says. "Baikonur, all round, is out of date, has poor safety standards, and has low levels (by European standards) of cleanliness in its processing rooms".

Bowles says there's a clear division of responsibility between the Europeans and Russians at the Soyuz site (ELS): the development of a new upper, third stage, the installation of hardware, and the erection of the launcher on the pad, for example, will be done by the Russians. The Europeans, on the other hand, are responsible for civil engineering projects, while Arianespace will be in charge of all launch operations.

The Soyuz is marketed commercially by Starsem, a French-registered company established in 1996, composed of Arianespace, the Samara Space Center (TsSKB Progress), the Russian Space Agency and EADS, which has exclusive rights to the international operations of Soyuz. Launches are all presently made from Baikonur, in Kazakhstan.

The first four launches from South America using the Soyuz ST will be the MetOp, COROT, PLEIADES, and Optus D2 satellites.

There will be three types of payload being launched on the Soyuz from French Guiana, says Le Gall. "Scientific and earth observation missions for European governments, or for the European Space Agency; the second will be a contribution to the deployment of the Galileo Positioning System for Europe, since today Arianespace is proposing to the Galileo authorities a mix of Ariane 5 and Soyuz; and the third payload will be small GTO spacecraft, up to three tonnes, as a complement to Ariane 5".

The prospects for Arianespace launching astronauts to the ISS from French Guiana are also looking strong, says Le Gall. "Arianespace is going to be a key player for the ISS, with the Ariane 5 launching the ATV in 2007, which will bring cargo to the station and give it boosts."

"Besides this, of course, there�s the Soyuz, and today, you know there's very big interest in the U.S. to use the Soyuz since NASA got a change in the Iran Non-Proliferation Act from Congress, in order to be authorized to buy Soyuz launches from the Russians,� continues Le Gall.

"So with the launch pad in French Guiana, and with all the activity which will exist, related to the ATV, why not (launch) men and women to the ISS from French Guiana? No decision has been taken but in a couple of years from now, a number of opportunities will exist, and this is the Arianespace policy, to try to get these opportunities in order to increase our business".

Arianespace - which has currently secured about 55% of the global commercial launch market, and which has a backlog of some 35 scheduled launches- is investing in a much greater array of solutions to offer customers. Apart from the Soyuz, Arianespace is developing the Vega rocket (a new European four-stage launcher scheduled to enter operation by the end of 2007, with a payload lift capability of 1,500 kg on missions to a 700 km circular orbit, and tailored to carry the growing number of small scientific spacecraft and other lighter-weight payloads under development worldwide), that together with the medium-lift Soyuz and heavy-lift Ariane 5 series (Ariane 5 Generic and Ariane 5 ECA), means Arianespace can offer customers greater availability than International Launch Services (ILS), their main competitor, which uses the Proton.

"The net result", adds Bowles, "is the ability to provide launches of any mass, to any orbit, at any time".

"We're used to saying at Arianespace that we're selling much more than a launch vehicle - we're selling launch services... and now we're proposing to our customers launch solutions, and this is why we're proposing a full panel of solutions, including insurance, financing, and back-ups (with its Launch Services Alliance partnership with Boeing Launch Services and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries), because our customers want absolute launch schedule assurance", says Le Gall.

"Since the start of the year we've launched seven telecommunications spacecraft. This is exactly the same as our competitors: Proton (ILS) have launched just three spacecraft, and Sea Launch four, and us, we've launched seven".

"When customers sign a contract, they want to be sure that they'll be launched right on time. And this is why we've been so successful in the past months, in signing a lot of contracts, because we're offering all these solutions to our customers", concludes Le Gall.

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Launch Date Not Yet Determined For Proton-M Carrying WorldSat-3
Moscow (SPX) Dec 08, 2005
The launch date for a Proton-M rocket carrying a U.S. AMC-23 satellite (WorldSat-3) has yet to be determined, Russia's Federal Space Agency said Wednesday, reports RIA Novosti.

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