WASHINGTON — An agreement between France and its restive South American territory French Guiana, home to Europe’s spaceport, has resolved a month-long dispute that had prevented any launch activity since mid-March.
Thanks to the “Accord de Guyane” agreement signed April 21 by French and French Guianese officials, launch service provider Arianespace says it will be able to soon resume launch activity and can make up for delays by using previously scheduled downtime over the next two months.
“Now that an agreement has been reached, we are fully ready to resume our operations in [the Guiana Space Centre, or CSG],” an Arianespace official told SpaceNews via email April 21. “We aim to make up for the accumulated delays on the three campaigns that were under way, without impacting the rest of our manifest, by taking advantage of the CSG’s availability in May and most of June, since there were no launches scheduled those months.”
Those three launches are:
- An Ariane 5 dual launch for South Korea’s KT Sat and Brazil’s Visiona Tecnologia Espacial
- A Europeanized Soyuz launch for SES of its SES-15 satellite
- An Ariane 5 dual launch for ViaSat’s ViaSat-2 and Eutelsat’s Eutelsat-172b satellites
“We believe it will take about eight working days (after resumption of operations) to carry out the VA236 launch that was originally scheduled for March 21,” the Arianespace official added.
The company declined to say when exactly operations would resume.
Arianespace says it still intends to perform the same number of launches planned from the beginning of the year despite the more than four-week delay caused by widespread protests aimed at France over living and working conditions in the French overseas department.
For protesters, the contrast between local living conditions and the high-tech space facility that sends billions of dollars worth of hardware into orbit every year became emblematic of their cause. Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of the French space agency CNES, which runs the spaceport, said April 4 that he was confident launches would resume “in the coming days.”
CNES is one of the agencies France uses to distribute aid to French Guiana.
In an April 20 press release celebrating the company’s business success in Japan, Arianespace reaffirmed the goal of 12 launches this year, and said that the launch of BSAT-4a, an SSL-built satellite for Japan-based Broadcasting Satellite System Corporation (B-SAT), is scheduled for this summer on an Ariane 5 rocket.
So far Arianespace has performed three out of 12 launches, one Vega, one Soyuz and one Ariane 5. The company has six more Ariane 5 launches, two of Vega and one more Soyuz before the year is out.