The French Government says it will support a plan to fly Russian Soyuz ST boosters operated by Arianespace affiliate company Starsem from Kourou, French Guiana.

A dedicated $250 million launch pad will be built at Kourou, possibly on the site of ELA 1, the original Europa launch pad which is now just a concrete structure, or at a new location at the site. Starsem currently launches the Soyuz from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.


"If Soyuz can be launched from Kourou, the Starsem company will continue but combined operations will be conducted by Arianespace, particularly in the commercial area. The precise solution is under definition," says Arianespace.

The Soyuz ST, equipped with a Fregat upper stage, could place 2,000kg (4,400lb) into geostationary transfer orbit from Kourou, a payload that represents about 20% of the Arianespace orderbook. But Arianespace says the most efficient launch cost solution for a 2,000kg payload would be an Ariane 5 dual launch, not a Soyuz ST.

The French Government says that the Kourou Soyuz launches must not compete with Ariane. In response, Arianespace says: "The Soyuz will not take the Arianespace portion of the market, but will compete with competitors."

Starsem also plans to address new markets, for example constellation launches, such as those required for the Galileo navigation satellite system. "Starsem and Arianespace will enlarge their respective market shares," says Arianespace.

Eurockot, another Arianespace affiliate, is planning to launch geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) payloads but as yet there are no plans for Kourou launches. However, Eurockot's market, like Starsem, will include launches to lower orbits and constellations.

The Soyuz could also be used to launch Russian communications satellites into GTO and carry payloads to the International Space Station, an option being discussed by the European Space Agency.

Source: Flight International