Roscosmos Suspends Soyuz Joint Launch Operations From Kourou, Recalls Personnel From Europe’s Spaceport

Soyuz-2 rocket launches 34 OneWeb broadband satellites from the Guiana Space Center. (Credit: Copyright ESA-CNES-Arianespace/Optique Video du CSG – P Piron)

Russia is suspending cooperation with Arianespace on the launch of Soyuz rockets from Europe’s Guiana Space Center and pulling its personnel from the South American spaceport over European Union (EU) sanctions imposed on the nation for the nation’s invasion of Ukraine. Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin tweeted: (Translated from Russian)

In response to EU sanctions against our enterprises, Roscosmos is suspending cooperation with European partners in organizing space launches from the Kourou cosmodrome and withdrawing its technical personnel, including the consolidated launch crew, from French Guiana.

Roscosmos followed up with a tweet: (Translated from Russian)

There are 87 Russian citizens in French Guiana. We are talking about employees of NPO Lavochkin, who prepared the Fregat-MT upper stage, as well as employees of the Progress RCC (manufacturer of the Soyuz rockets) and TsENKI. The issue of the departure of Russian employees is being worked out.

Spaceflight Now‘s launch schedule indicates that a Soyuz rocket was scheduled to launch a pair of European Galileo navigation satellites on April 5. A Wikipedia page about flights of Soyuz rockets from French Guiana lists the planned launches of two Galileo satellites in September and the Euclid space telescope in February 2023.

The launch of Soyuz rockets from French Guiana is a joint program of Roscosmos and the European Space Agency (ESA) program that has provided Arianespace with a medium-lift launcher to complement the larger Ariane 5 booster and the smaller Vega rocket.

There have been 27 Soyuz launches from French Guiana since October 2011. Twenty six launches were successful and one flight experienced a partial failure that resulted in two Galileo satellites failing to reach their targeted orbits. The spacecraft were later moved to useful orbits.

Arianaespace is also partnered with Russia’s Starstem to conduct commercial launches of Soyuz rockets from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia. It is unclear whether that program will be impacted by Russia’s anger over EU sanctions.

A Soyuz rocket is scheduled to launch 36 broadband satellites for OneWeb on March 4 from Baikonur. OneWeb is partly owned by the British government, which has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

OneWeb has relied exclusively on Soyuz rockets to launch its constellation of 648 satellites. Soyuz rockets have launched 428 OneWeb satellites to date from French Guiana, Baikonur and Vostochny. The most recent OneWeb launch was conducted from French Guiana on Feb. 10.