soyuz in csg.JPG

credit CNES

Already delayed from 2008 to 2009 the European Space Agency (ESA) seems to be preparing for a possible delay into 2010 for the introduction of Arianespace/Starsem French Guiana Space Centre (CSG) operations of the Samara Space Centre Soyuz 2-1a rocket as the maiden launch slips to November or December this year, but ESA declines to confirm that end of 2009 target date as definiteHyperbola noticed that what should be the big event of the year for ESA had been left off of the agency’s “Overview of ESA communication activities in 2009 relevant to the media

However the maiden flight of ESA’s new small launcher Vega from CSG gets a mention for December in the list of media relevant 2009 communication activities but that also has “to be confirmed”

Making enquiries to ESA the reply was “After checking it appears that Soyuz is still on for end 2009, exact date [to be confirmed], probably November/December.”

Although ESA’s Soyuz webpage now gives an end of 2009 target date, media reports during 2008 had maiden flight dates orbiting mid-2009 and even referred to a possible commercial launch in the third quarter of this year

According to the waybackmachine website the previous, 12 January 2008, ESA Soyuz webpage gave a target Soyuz launch date of “end of 2008”, indicating a recent change to the agency’s online information

The launch infrastructure is still being built and Russian media recently reported a small delay in the next batch of equipment to be transported by ship to the South American French territory. The original industry estimate of possible Soyuz operation from CSG when first discussed in the 1990s gave a launch date of 2002, but Russia and ESA’s member states did not sign an agreement until 2003

Even once completed the CSG infrastructure will have to then be upgraded so the Soyuz 2-1b version can operate from it. The 2-1b variant is needed so the Galileo satellite navigation programme’s spacecraft can be launched from CSG. That upgrade work is supposed to start next year

Hyperbola asked Arianespace this morning when it expects Soyuz to fly from CSG for the first time but has had no reply so far