14 Apr 2020 13:07

Russia may cut number of space launches due to problems of foreign clients - source

MOSCOW. April 14 (Interfax) - Russia may cut the number of space launches in 2020, due to the lack of preparedness of foreign satellites, an informed source told Interfax.

"This is about four rocket launches due from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in 2020, in addition to one launch from Baikonur to put OneWeb satellites into orbit, two launches from the Guiana Space Center, and the launch of a South Korean satellite from Baikonur," the source said.

In the first case, a problem is presented by the bankruptcy of the British company OneWeb, whose future will become clear after the coronavirus pandemic ends. Two more launches are expected to be performed from Kourou in French Guiana: the launch of the UAE's Falcon 2 satellite by a Soyuz-ST rocket was delayed indefinitely in March, and the launch of the French reconnaissance satellite CSO2 was delayed for the same reason. Roscosmos has a contract for space launches from Kourou with Arianespace, but France suspended the space center's operations due to coronavirus. The eighth satellite, CAS500-1 of South Korea, was due to be launched from Baikonur in fall 2020.

"For now, the probability of some of these launches remains, and the future of the OneWeb project is causing the biggest concerns," the source said.

Soyuz rockets have been built for those missions, the source said.

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said earlier that nine out of 33 space launches planned by Russia for this year may be derailed by the coronavirus pandemic and OneWeb's bankruptcy.

A spokesman for Roscosmos told Interfax on March 27 that the space launch program for 2020 might be adjusted due to suspended satellite production in coronavirus-stricken Europe.

Roscosmos and Arianespace signed a contact in June 2015 for 21 commercial launches of 672 OneWeb communications satellites by means of Soyuz-2 rockets with Fregat booster units from Baikonur, Vostochny, and Kourou.

OneWeb declared bankruptcy on March 30.