Soyuz sees the light in French Guiana

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Preparations for the first Soyuz launch from the European Space Agency's spaceport in French Guiana made a highly visible step forward last week when the 52m (170ft)-tall service gantry made its maiden roll-back from a fully assembled Soyuz rocket.

Launch operator Arianespace moved the gantry as part of a virtual countdown and launch in anticipation of a flight in October. The gantry allows payloads to be integrated with a Soyuz rocket upright, instead of horizontal as at Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

ESA will also fly its lightweight Vega launcher for the firs time this year, giving it two new alternatives to its heavyweight workhorse, Ariane 5.

french guiana soyuz launch, arianespace
 © Arianespace