Russia signs space launch pact with Europe

Russia and Europe will jointly construct a launch site for
Russian Soyuz rockets at French Guiana’s Kourou space centre.
Lift-off is due in 2007.

The European Space Agency (ESA) signed a long-term co-operation
agreement with Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) on 19
January, covering the development, construction and use of space
launch crafts. The total value of the project, which has been on
the drawing board since 1998, is around 344 million
euro. 

The ‘Soyuz at Europe’s Spaceport’ project, which makes Russia
ESA’s first long-term co-operation partner in space launch
programmes, aims to facilitate the joint construction of a launch
system for the Russian Soyuz-ST carrier rocket at French Guiana’s
Kourou space centre. The first joint launch is scheduled for
2007.

In its different versions, Soyuz has made over 1,600 successful
launches to date. The joint project will consolidate Europe’s
access to space for medium-size missions. “The project for
launching Soyuz from Kourou is only a part of a grand project that
leads the way to many others,” commented Roscosmos chief
Anatoly Perminov. 

The agreement gives Russia special status within – but not
membership of – ESA.

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