ESA announces 2011 launch plans

PARIS, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- The head of the European Space Agency says rocket launch "traffic will be much heavier" in 2011 at its French Guiana spaceport.

Jean-Jacques Dordain says the ESA's workhorse Ariane rocket will be joined by the Russian Soyuz vehicle and a new small launch vehicle called the Vega, the BBC reported Friday.


This represents a major change in the way ESA will conduct its space activities, previously centered on the Ariane, Dordain said.

"From this year, we will exploit three launchers in parallel -- Ariane, Soyuz and Vega," he said. "It will introduce some constraints because the traffic will be much heavier from [the spaceport], and I'm not so sure we've yet totally understood the constraints which are linked to the exploitation of three launchers instead of one."

At the French Guiana spaceport, a completely new launch facility has been constructed for Soyuz, allowing the Russian-built vehicle to shift some of its operations to the ESA's South American spaceport from its traditional home of the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

With three different rockets operating, the ESA spaceport is going to be extremely busy and launches could be occurring at the rate of about one a month in future, ESA officials said.


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