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Europe's Soyuz launch site ready for first flight

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The Soyuz launch site lies 13 km northwest of the Ariane 5 launch complex. Photo by ESA - S. Corvaja.

PARIS (BNS): The Soyuz site at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana is now ready for its first launch, European Space Agency said.

ESA Friday handed over the complex to Arianespace, marking a major step towards this year’s inaugural flight.

Construction of the Soyuz site began in February 2007, although initial excavation and ground infrastructure work began in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

Russian staff arrived in French Guiana in mid-2008 to assemble the launch table, mobile gantry, fuelling systems and test benches.

The first two Soyuz launchers arrived from Russia by sea in November 2009 to be assembled in the new preparation and integration building.

The French space agency, CNES, as prime contractor for the building work, along with its European and Russian partners, has spent recent months qualifying the site – known as Ensemble de Lancement Soyuz, or ELS for short.

The tests covered all the mechanical, fluid and electrical elements, such as the pad’s umbilical arms and fuelling vehicles, and all the buildings, including the launch control centre that will house the combined European and Russian teams, ESA said.

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