Arianespace, which has long operated the Kourou site for their Ariane rocket series, confirmed that the initial Soyuz flight from the facility on October 21 was a success. The payload of the first two Galileo navigation satellites have reached orbit. In all, a constellation of 30 such satellites are planned, with the intention of reducing European reliance on the existing GPS system. 14 more Soyuz launches are planned from French Guiana, according to Arianespace, which markets the Russian rocket in Europe.
According to Flight Global, the Soyuz offers European clients an alternative for payloads, “payloads too sensitive to send to Kazakhstan and too light to require Ariane V performance.”
The site's placement is closer to the equator than Baikonur in Kazakhstan, allowing Soyuz to lift heavier loads by taking advantage of the Earth's rotation. Soyuz has made more than 1,700 launches from only two sites: Baikonur in Kazakhstan, and Plesetsk in Russia. The next Soyuz launch from Kourou is scheduled for December.
The Ariane V and Soyuz will soon be joined by Vega, a new European rocket built for light payloads. The first Vega launch is tentatively scheduled for early 2012.
Arianespace was founded in 1980 as the world's first commercial launch services provider
Click here to read Flight Global article