PARIS AIR SHOW: Soyuz 2-1b launch end of 2010

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Next year will see the maiden flights of two types of Samara Space Center Soyuz rockets from the new launch complex at Sinnamary, French Guiana. One of the rockets will be used to deploy the Galileo satellite navigation system.

Originally planned for 2007, the Soyuz rocket ST version will now fly for the first time from the European Space Agency's equatorial French Guiana spaceport at the beginning of 2010. The ST version uses the ST fairing but the rocket has two types, the 2-1a and 2-1b. The Soyuz 2-1a will be launched at the beginning of the year and the 2-1b is expected to fly at the end of 2010, with a second flight scheduled for the beginning of 2011.

The main difference between the two is the type of fuel used. The 2-1b uses a different type of kerosene for its upper stage that delivers better performance. Only the 2-1b can launch the Galileo satellites, with each rocket orbiting two at a time.

"Work is already being completed for the additional fuel infrastructure. By the end of 2010 we will launch the 2-1b," says Antonio Fabrizi, ESA launchers directorate head.

Delayed from 2007 to 2008, and now slipping into 2010, the completion of the Sinnamary launch complex has been held up by problems in the construction of its the mobile gantry. The Soyuz launch site in Baikonur, Kazakhstan does not use a mobile gantry, but weather conditions in French Guiana have forced ESA to adopt one.

The 2-1a is able to carry 2,700kg (5,950lb) into geostationary transfer orbit from French Guiana compared with the 1,700kg it can achieve from its Baikonur launch pads. The 2-1b version is capable of sending 3,600kg to GTO.