Space: February 8, 2004

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The European Union (EU) is paying Russia $152 million to upgrade several of it's Soyuz satellite launchers for use at the European Space Agency (ESA) launch facility in French Guiana. This complex is close to the equator, and thus can put more weight in orbit than the same launcher operating at higher latitudes. The ESA is also spending $361 million to build a launch pad for the Soyuz. The ESA facility has more work than it can handle, and the Russian Soyuz, while old, is reliable (1700 launches) and cheaper (by about 25 percent) than any of ESA other vehicles.