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Maiden flight of Russia's Soyuz-ST carrier rocket set for Aug. 31

RIA Novosti

20:01 02/02/2011 MOSCOW, February 2 (RIA Novosti) - The first flight of Russia's Soyuz-ST-B carrier rocket from the European space center in French Guiana has been scheduled for August 31, 2011, the Progress design bureau said on Wednesday.

"The new schedule of work under the program of Soyuz launches from Guiana envisages the first launch of the Soyuz-ST-B carrier rocket on August 31, 2011," the design bureau's press service said.

The rocket will carry two Galileo navigation satellites that are the equivalent of the U.S.'s Global Positioning System (GPS) and Russia's Glonass.

The Soyuz-ST was originally scheduled to blast off with the French Hylas satellite on board from the European Space Agency's Kourou Space Center on December 17, 2010, but the launch was called off. The French operator said it was because it had become clear the Russian rocket would not be ready to fly by the end of the year.

The Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos and France's launch services firm Arianespace sealed a deal in 2008 to launch 10 Soyuz-ST carrier rockets from Kourou.

The Kourou Space Center's proximity to the Equator means it is nearly ideal for the launch of geostationary satellites and the Soyuz-ST will be able to orbit heavier satellites than those launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan and Plesetsk in northern Russia.

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