A solution for every mission
Airbus Defence and Space has formed innovative partnerships with the Russian space industry to complement the Ariane 5 standard and heavy-lift options, enabling Europe to offer a complete family of launchers.
The company is the main shareholder in Starsem, a Franco–Russian joint company that manages Soyuz marketing worldwide. Starsem, instigated by AIRBUS Group in 1996, is registered as a French public limited company. Airbus Defence and Space is the largest shareholder in Starsem with a 35% stake; the other shareholders are the Russian space agency Roskosmos (25%), the Samara Space Centre, which developed Sputnik and continues to be a key global player in launcher design (25%), and Arianespace, the international commercial launch leader (15%).
The Soyuz family of vehicles have so far performed more than 1,700 successful launches. The Russian-built Soyuz launcher is designed to boost small- to medium-weight satellites into low and medium Earth orbits, and is also ideal for interplanetary missions. In 1999, Starsem’s Soyuz launcher successfully orbited 24 of the Globalstar constellation of satellites in six launches, and ESA’s four Cluster scientific satellites in 2000. In June 2003, Starsem launched the first European mission to Mars, Mars Express, and performed its first GTO mission with the Israeli communications satellite Amos-2 in December 2004. Three successful launches were undertaken in 2005 including ESA’s Venus Express mission in November and the first in-orbit test element satellite for the Galileo system (GIOVE-A) in December.
Soyuz launches currently take place from Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Republic of Kazakhstan, central Asia. As of 2010, Soyuz rockets will also be launched from Europe’s spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, where they will be operated by Arianespace. Airbus Defence and Space strongly supports this decision – offering a launcher for lighter-weight satellites, complementing Ariane 5 for heavy or dual launches, and providing a valuable back-up option, from the same launch site via the same launch operator will enhance European launch capability. Moreover, Kourou’s location close to the equator, as opposed to Baikonur which is situated at 45° North, facilitates launches into equatorial orbit, where spacecraft benefit from the added impetus of the Earth’s rotation.