Roadblocks halt Arianespace launches

Earlier this week there were signs that the severe industrial action at the French Guiana rocket launch site at Kourou were softening. Some roadblocks had been lifted, and there were hopeful noises that by the end of this week the month-long stoppage might peter out.  Not so.

Yesterday’s reports say there are plenty of roadblocks still in place, and the strike leaders – a consortium of some 30 unions – are demanding that this weekend’s first stage of the French presidential elections would see firm commitments from officials that financial help would be forthcoming.

The French government has already promised €1 billion in relief and infrastructure spending, but the strikers want more than three-times that amount, as well as a reversal of a plan to privatise a major hospital.

Meanwhile, the spaceport remains the focus of attention for the strikers. The strike has become deeper since its March 20th start which lead to an immediate stoppage of a planned launch on March 21st.

Local law enforcement is ensuring that things stay calm, but they are not involving themselves too deeply into the protests.

Arianespace say 9000 jobs are directly or indirectly dependent on activities at the spaceport, and these jobs represent some 40 percent of French Guiana’s private sector workers.

French Guiana is an overseas department and region of France, and the largest – and outermost – region of the European Union.

In practical terms the spaceport could be up and running within about 10 days of the strike ending – but first the strikers have to allow normality to return.

April 20th saw HellasSat, itself a joint-venture between Arabsat (which owns HellasSat) and Inmarsat, say that the planned launch of HellasSat-3 on June 28th could now be in doubt because of the industrial action.

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