Guiana Space Centre

Guiana Space Centre

The Guiana Space Centre, or more commonly, Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG) is a French spaceport near Kourou in French Guiana. Operational since 1968, it is particularly suitable as a location for a spaceport due to its proximity to the equator, and the fact that launches in the favourable direction are over water. The European Space Agency, the French space agency CNES, and the commercial Arianespace company conduct launches from Kourou.

The place was selected in 1964 to become the spaceport of France. When the European Space Agency (ESA) was founded in 1975, France offered to share Kourou with ESA. Commercial launches are bought also by non-European companies. ESA pays two thirds of the spaceport's annual budget, and has also financed the upgrades made during the development of the Ariane launchers.


Kourou is located approximately convert|500|km north of the equator, at a latitude of 5°10'. At this latitude, the Earth's rotation gives a velocity of approximately convert|500|m/s|mph km/h when the launch trajectory heads eastward. The proximity to the equator also makes maneuvering satellites for geosynchronous orbits simpler and less costly.

The ground facilities at Guiana Space Centre (GSC) include launcher ( _fr. l'Ensemble de Lancement) and satellite preparation buildings, launch operation facilities and a solid propellant factory. The GSC facility covers a total of convert|850|km2.


Originally built in the 1960s under the name of CECLES ( _fr. Conférence Européenne de Construction de Lanceurs et d'Engins Spatiaux, _en. European conference on construction of launchers and spacecraft), the ELV pad ( _fr. l'Ensemble de Lancement Vega) was designed for the Europa-II rocket. One Europa-II was launched from the site, before the programme was cancelled.

The pad was demolished, and subsequently rebuilt as the first launch complex for Ariane rockets. Renamed "ELA" (later redesignated "ELA 1"), it was used for Ariane 1 and Ariane 2 and 3 launches until being retired in 1989. [cite web | url = | title = Pad List - World Launch Sites | publisher = Space Launch Report]

As of 2008, ELV-1 is being rebuilt to support launches of the Vega rocket, back under the current designation of ELV.


The ELA 2 pad ( _fr. l'Ensemble de Lancement Ariane 2), located at 5.232 N, 52.776 W) had been used for Ariane 4 launches until 2003.


As of 2008, ELA 3 ( _fr. 21|km2. [cite web | title = Europe's spaceport | url = | publisher = ESA]

ELS / Soyuz at CSG

ESA is currently building ELS ( _fr. l'Ensemble de Lancement Soyouz ) for launching Russian-built Soyuz launch vehicle rockets. The first Soyuz launch from ELS is scheduled for the second half of 2009.cite web |url= |title=Soyuz launch site hardware arrives in French Guiana |date=2008-07-28 |publisher=Arianespace] [cite web |url= | title=Official opening of the Soyuz launch base construction site in French Guiana | publisher=European Space Agency | date=2007-02-26] ELS will be located near Sinnamari, a village convert|10|km north of the site used for the Ariane 5 launches. Under the terms of the Russo-European joint venture, ESA will augment its own launch vehicle fleet with Soyuz rockets—using them to launch ESA or commercial payloads—and the Russians will get access to the Kourou spaceport for launching their own payloads with Soyuz rockets. Russia will use the Guiana Space Centre in addition to their Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan launching site. The Guiana location has the significant benefit of greatly increased payload capability, owing to the near equatorial position. A Soyuz rocket with a 1.7 tonnes to Geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) performance from Baikonur, will increase its payload potential to 2.8 tonnes from the Guiana launch site [fr icon [ Le Port Spatial de l'Europe (CNES)] ] .

The ELS project is being co-funded by Arianespace, ESA, and the European Union, with CNES being the prime contractor. The project has a projected cost of approximately €320 million, where €120 million are allocated for modernizing the Soyuz vehicle [ [ Europe To Pay Russia To Build Soyuz Pad At Kourou: Russia ] ] .The official opening of the launch site construction occurred on 27 February 2007. Excavation work however, had previously begun several months beforehand. As of May 2008, groundworks were still continuing but the flame pit was substantially complete, along with the shell of the Soyuz assembly building. Equipment manufactured in Russia had arrived in French Guiana by July 2008, with Russian technicians performing the equpment installation at ELS.

In November 2007, reportscite web | title =Thefts Place Russian Rocket Launches Under Threat In French Guiana | publisher =RIA Novosti / | date= 2007-11-22 | url=
accessdate =2007-11-26
] emerged attributed to Vladimir Grezdilov, general director of the Mir company, of thefts from the Soyuz site near Sinnamari, a village convert|10|km north of the site used for the Ariane-5, that might cause delays to its completion and the first launches. Grezdilov said that the local security company was involved.

Final assembly building

Astrium assembles each Ariane 5 launcher in the Launcher Integration Building. The vehicle is then delivered to the Final Assembly Building for payload integration by Arianespace. [cite web |url= |title=Arianespace receives its fifth Ariane 5 of 2008 |date=2008-07-28 |publisher=Arianespace] The Final Assembly Building is located convert|2.8|km from the ELA-3 launch zone. The mobile launch table completes the trip with an Ariane 5 in about one hour. It is then secured in place over the launch pad's flame ducts. [cite web | url = | title = Ariane 5 rolls out for Arianespace's fifth launch of 2007 | publisher = Arianespace | date = November 8, 2007]

Launch safety

Fire safety is ensured by a detachment of the Paris Fire Brigade. Safety around the base is ensured by French Gendarmerie forces, assisted by the 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment of the French Foreign Legion.

The Guiana Space Centre (as per CNES) also holds the "Îles du Salut", a former penal colony including the infamous Devil's Island. Now a tourist site, the islands are under the launching trajectory for geosynchronous orbit and have to be evacuated during launches.

Recent launches

* 2007-10-05 - An Ariane 5 GS launched from CSG carrying Intelsat 11 and Optus D2. [cite web | url = | title = Arianespace boosts Intelsat 11 and Optus D2 into orbit | publisher = Arianespace]

* 2008-03-09 - An Ariane 5 launched carrying the ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) "Jules Verne" in preparation for docking with the ISS. This was the first launch of the ESA's unmanned resupply craft.

* 2008-04-18 - An Ariane 5 launched carrying Vinasat-1 - Vietnam's first satellite.

* 2008-08-14 - An Ariane 5 carrying Superbird 7 for Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and AMC-21 for SES Americom


External links

* [ Centre Spatial Guyanais official site]
* [ Europe's Spaceport] - Information from ESA
* [ Europe's Spaceport] - Information from Arianespace
* [ List of Stratospheric Balloons launched from CSG] - Information from StratoCat

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