The maiden flight of a Soyuz 2-1a launch vehicle took place on Monday 8 November 2004 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia at 21:30 Moscow time (19:30 Paris). Starsem, Arianespace and their Russian partners report that the mission was accomplished successfully.
This launch marks a major step forward in the Soyuz evolution programme as this modernised version of the launcher implements a digital control system providing additional mission flexibility and enabling control of the launch vehicle with a larger fairing. The next step will be the introduction of the Soyuz 2-1b. This launcher version will have a more powerful third-stage engine to significantly increase the overall launch vehicle performance and provide additional payload mass capability. The inaugural flight of the Soyuz 2-1b is presently scheduled for mid-2006 from Baikonur.
Both new versions of the Soyuz launcher will be adapted in view of their exploitation by Arianespace from the Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana. This will be made possible through the “Soyuz at CSG” ESA programme, which encompasses the development of a Soyuz launch complex on the territory of Sinnamary and participation in the Soyuz 2-1b development. The Soyuz at CSG programme is a key building block in the implementation of strategic cooperation between ESA and the Russian Space Agency, which falls under the general framework of the Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and ESA on Cooperation and Partnership in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes, signed in Paris on 11 February 2003.
Franco Bonacina | alfa!
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