>On Tuesday, Anatoly Perminov, chief of Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, arrived at the Kourou space center in French Guiana to oversee preparations for the first launch of a Soyuz-ST carrier rocket. During his visit, Perminov will meet with European Space Agency director-general Jean-Jacques Dordain and officials of the French space agency, CNES.
Sections of two Soyuz-STs were shipped from St. Petersburg to France’s South American department in November 2009. The April deadline for the launch, however, came and went. Russian, EU, and French space officials are now uncertain when this will take place, confiding only that the rocket will certainly blast off by the end of 2010.
Two years ago Roscosmos and French satellite launch firm Arianespace inked a contract to launch 10 Russian Soyuz-STs from Kourou, with two launches specifically slated for 2010. However, according to Arianespace Chairman/CEO Jean Yves le Galle, only one Soyuz launch will be held this year, to deliver the Hylas-1 commercial satellite into orbit. The second Russian launch from Kourou, he explains, is not expected by year’s end.
In any event, Perminov will inspect the Soyuz-ST assembly facility at Kourou and the launch pad of Ariane-5, the main EU-built booster. Sergei Ivanov, deputy prime minister in charge of Russia’s aerospace and defense industries, is expected to join Perminov for a working visit.
Russia’s new spaceport in French Guiana is intended mainly for the launch of heavier, geosynchronous satellites, which are ideally launched from an equatorial region. Until now Russia was restricted to using two spaceports, the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which Moscow rents from the “former” Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, and the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northwest Russia. Constructed in 1955, Baikonur is the world’s oldest, continuously operating rocket base.
French Guiana offers the Soviet strategists a potential platform from which to lob nukes at the Continental USA from an unexpected direction. This may be one reason why they have wooed France and the European Union into Moscow’s sphere of influence. French Guiana, which is located among South America’s “northern tier” countries, is close to Soviet ally Venezuela. No one at the Pentagon, which is now effectively committed to unilateral nuclear disarmament under the Obama Admin, seems be considering this threat.
On the other side of the world, in the eastern Indian Ocean, the Russian Navy, although a shadow of its Soviet-era strength, is re-projecting its influence. This past week, two warships, the Northern Fleet’s Peter the Great battlecruiser and the Black Sea Fleet’s guided missile cruiser Moskva, carried out a drill that included repelling enemy airstrikes. The US-British naval base at Diego Garcia is located in the central Indian Ocean.
Rebuilding Russian naval power, with Borei-class ballistic missile submarines and multiple carrier strike forces, is a top priority for the Moscow Leninists, but will take some years to realize, even with enough money. The first of four Borei-class subs, Yury Dolgoruky, is currently undergoing sea trials. The Russian Navy is also committed to purchasing a Mistral-class amphibious assault ship from errant NATO member France and building three more under license. The latter prospect greatly worries former communist states like Poland and the Baltic republics.
Earlier today, Japanese and South Korean jets intercepted two Russian Bear bombers and their multirole fighter escort over the Sea of Japan. The Russian military aircraft were en route to the Pacific Ocean to conduct exercises.