Arianespace’s rocket launch schedule has continued to suffer from a workers’ strike in French Guiana, which has now gone on for more than a week. The Ariane 5 rocket is patiently waiting for the civil unrest to die down, although in the past few days Air France has cancelled all flights to the French overseas ‘département’, while the US State Department has issued a travel advisory recommending that people do not travel to the region.
France’s Prime Minister Bernard Caseneuve has sent a ministerial delegation to attempt to sort out the problem. French Guiana has a population of some 250,000. Roadblocks and demonstrations are preventing traffic circulation, and retail stores are closed in what has now become a general strike. The protestors are complaining about very high rates of crime, unemployment, and the overall cost of living.
Some 27 labour unions are involved in the strike, including the crews responsible for transferring the giant rocket from its assembly building to the launch pad.
Currently, Launch Flight VA236 – originally scheduled for March 21st – is awaiting a calming of the situation. It has two passengers, for Brazil and Koreasat. Meanwhile a team of Boeing engineers are trapped in their Cayenne hotel unable to get to the pre-launch preparation facility to work on SES-15, intended to follow the Brazil/Korea pair into orbit. SES-015 was originally expected to launch in April, and that date now looks in doubt unless the strike lifts in the next day or two.