Jean-Yves Le Gall of France’s Arianespace confirmed rumors about the intention to purchase Soyuz booster rockets from Russia.
"We have ordered 14 Soyuzes from the Russian Federation; the contract's cost is about $1 billion. These are ambitious plans," Le Gall said at a Russian-French business forum, held as part of President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to France, RIA Novosti reports.
Russia and France signed an agreement for cooperation between Roskosmos and the National Space Research Center of France (CNES). The agreement details the plan of the Russian-French cooperation within the scope of the Ural program to build state-of-the-art booster rockets. The document also stipulates the construction of the launch system for Soyuz rockets at the Kourou space center in French Guiana.
Spokespeople for Russian and French space corporations said that the equipment had been 90 percent ready. Roskosmos said that it was ready to perform the first launch of the Russian rockets from the north-east of South America already during the second half of 2010.
It is worthy of note that NASA officials acknowledged recently that Soyuz-TC was the best booster in the world. It was the best promotion that the Russian space technology could have in the world. Therefore, it is not ruled out that Russia will sell more than 14 rockets.
Unlike the USA, France continues to fund its space program fully. Russia is also interested in using the space center in Kourou since it is located much closer to the equator than Baikonur space port in Kazakhstan. A Soyuz-TC launched from French Guiana will perform a lot better.
France will launch Soyuz in the second half of this year. Seventeen more launches will take place afterwards. The number of launches will grow every year, Arianespace’s CEO said.
Russian experts say that the contract with France will help Russia realize its plans to build a space port of its own in the Amur region. Baikonur – the space port, which Russia uses now – is located in Kazakhstan.
The construction of a new space center would cost 400 billion rubles, experts say. Last year, Kazakhstan did not coordinate documents for the launch of Russia’s Proton-M booster, which was supposed to deliver a European W7 satellite in orbit. Russia pays Kazakhstan $115 million a year for the rent of Baikonur.
Russia still remains the leading space power in the world. In 2009, Russia performed 32 launches of booster rockets and delivered 29 domestic satellites and 20 foreign spacecraft in orbit.
“It makes 40 percent of all booster rocket launches in the whole world in 2009,” Roskosmos CEO Anatoly Perminov said.