Guiana Space Centre

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Coordinates: 5°13′20″N 52°46′25″W / 5.22222°N 52.77361°W / 5.22222; -52.77361

Centre Spatial Guyanais
Guiana Space Centre logo.svg
CSG Panoramic.jpg
Aerial view of Guiana Space Centre
Agency overview
Formed14 April 1964 (1964-04-14)
JurisdictionGovernment of France
HeadquartersKourou, French Guiana, France
Employees1,525 direct (2011)
7,500 indirect (2011)
Agency executive
  • Didier Faivre, director
Parent agencyESA/CNES
Map of Guiana Space Centre
Detailed map
Detailed map of Carbet Toukan pads

The Guiana Space Centre (French: Centre Spatial Guyanais; CSG) also called Europe's Spaceport[1][2] is a French and European spaceport to the northwest of Kourou in French Guiana, a region of France in South America. Operational since 1968, it is particularly suitable as a location for a spaceport. It fulfills the two major geographical requirements of such a site:

  • It is near the equator, so that less energy is required to manoeuvre a spacecraft into an equatorial, geostationary orbit.
  • It has open sea to the east, so that lower stages of rockets and debris from launch failures are unlikely to fall on human habitations. Rockets launch to the east to take advantage of the angular momentum provided by Earth's rotation.

The European Space Agency (ESA), the French space agency CNES (National Centre for Space Studies), and the commercial companies Arianespace and Azercosmos conduct launches from Kourou.[3][4][5] This was the spaceport used by the ESA to send supplies to the International Space Station using the Automated Transfer Vehicle.


The location was selected in 1964 to become the spaceport of France.[6][7]

In 1975, France offered to share Kourou with ESA.[6][7] 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.

On 4 April 2017, the centre was occupied by 30 labour union leaders in the midst of the 2017 social unrest in French Guiana, but was taken back on 24 April 2017.[8]


Vega launch pad in 2017
Ariane 5 final assembly building
Soyuz-2 mobile service tower and flame trench
Kourou ESTRACK station antenna

Kourou is located approximately 500 km (310 mi) north of the equator, at a latitude of 5°. It is a common misconception[citation needed] that the main advantage of launching a rocket from the equator is the extra boost provided by the speed of the Earth's rotation. For example, the eastward boost provided by the Earth's rotation is about 463 m/s (1,520 ft/s) at the Guiana Space Centre, as compared to about 406 m/s (1,330 ft/s) at the United States east coast Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and Kennedy Space Center spaceports which are at 28°27′N latitude in Florida. This means that rockets need around 60 m/s more delta-v to reach low earth orbit (LEO) from Cape Canaveral, which is an insignificant disadvantage.[9][10]

In reality, the main benefit of Kourou is that the near-equatorial launch location provides an advantage for launches to low-inclination (or geostationary) Earth orbits compared to launches from spaceports at higher latitude. This is because rockets can be launched into orbits with an inclination of as low as ~6°. The lowest inclination a rocket from Cape Canaveral could be launched to is 28.5° (the latitude of Cape Canaveral). Inclination change burns already require significant amounts of delta-v, so needing to change inclination by 28.5° seriously affects a rocket's capability to send satellites into a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). As a result of these phenomena, similarly sized Proton and Ariane 5 rockets can send similar payloads to LEO. However, the Proton, launched from high latitudes in Russia, can only send 6,270 kg to GTO while a Kourou-launched Ariane 5 can send more than 10,000 kg to GTO.[11][12] However, the massive SpaceX Falcon Heavy makes up for the geographic disadvantage of Cape Canaveral by lifting up to 26,700 kg to GTO.[13]

BEC / ELA-1 / ELV[edit]

Originally built in the 1960s under the name of Base Équatoriale du CECLES (English: ELDO Equatorial Base), the pad located at 5°14′10″N 52°46′30″W / 5.236°N 52.775°W / 5.236; -52.775 was designed for the Europa-II launch vehicle. One Europa-II was launched from the site in 1971 which ended in failure due to a guidance problem, before the programme was cancelled.[14]

The pad was demolished, and subsequently rebuilt as the first launch complex for Ariane as ELA (French: Ensemble de Lancement Ariane). Redesignated later as ELA-1, it was used for Ariane 1 and Ariane 2 and 3 launches until being retired in 1989.[15]

In November 2001, it was refurbished again for the Vega rocket and renamed ELV (French: Ensemble de Lancement Vega). The first launch was performed on 13 February 2012.[16]


The ELA-2 pad (French: Ensemble de Lancement Ariane-2), located at 5°13′55″N 52°46′34″W / 5.232°N 52.776°W / 5.232; -52.776, built in 1986, had been used for Ariane 4 launches from 1988 until 2003. Before 1988, although purpose-built for Ariane 4, the pad hosted a Ariane-2 and two Ariane-3 launches. The complex consisted of two areas: the launcher preparation zone and the launch pad itself, separated by one kilometer, allowing a launcher to be assembled in the preparation zone while another launches from the pad. A mobile service tower at the launch pad provided a protected environment for payload installation and final preparation of the rocket.[17] In September 2011 the pad's service tower was demolished using explosives.[18]


ELA-3 (French: Ensemble de Lancement Ariane-3) has been active for Ariane 5 launches since 1996 (Ariane 501). This facility is located at 5°14′20″N 52°46′05″W / 5.239°N 52.768°W / 5.239; -52.768 and covers an area of 21 km2 (8.1 sq mi).[19]


ELA-4 (French: Ensemble de Lancement Ariane-4) is presently under construction, intended for future Ariane 6 launches. This facility is located at 5°15′45″N 52°47′27″W / 5.26258°N 52.79074°W / 5.26258; -52.79074.[20]

ELS / Soyuz at CSG[edit]

ESA has built ELS (French: Ensemble de Lancement Soyouz) at 5°18′18″N 52°50′02″W / 5.305°N 52.834°W / 5.305; -52.834 for launching Russian-built Soyuz-2 rockets. The first Soyuz launch from ELS was postponed several times, but launched on 21 October 2011.[21]

ELS is located on the territory of Sinnamary commune, 27 km (17 mi) from Kourou harbor.[22] It is 10 km (6.2 mi) northwest 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 Baikonur Cosmodrome. 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.[23]

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.[24] The official opening of the launch site construction occurred on 27 February 2007. Excavation work however, had previously begun several months beforehand.

On 13 September 2010, Spaceflight Now reported that after several delays in the construction of a mobile gantry the launch pad had been finished, and the first flight of the Soyuz was expected to occur in early 2011.[25] By October 2010, 18 launch contracts had been signed. Arianespace has ordered 24 launchers from Russian industry.[26]

On 21 October 2011, two Galileo IOV-1 and IOV-2 satellites were launched using a Soyuz-ST rocket, in the "first Russian Soyuz vehicle ever launched from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana."[27]

Final assembly building[edit]

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.[28] The Final Assembly Building is located 2.8 km (1.7 mi) 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.[29]


Ariane IV launched from the Guiana Space Centre on 10 August 1992.
An Ariane 5 lifts off from Kourou on 29 August 2013.
Sentinel-2A launch on Vega on 23 June 2015.
Soyuz rollout to ELS pad on 9 October 2012.

Launch safety[edit]

Fire safety is ensured by a detachment of the Paris Fire Brigade, a branch of the French Army. Security around the base is ensured by French Gendarmerie forces, assisted by the 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment of the French Foreign Legion.[citation needed] Before and during launch windows, CSG facility security is significantly enhanced by anti-personnel and anti-aircraft measures, the exact configurations of which are classified by the French military. All entrants to the launch complex are also subject to checks for proof of permission to enter the facility.[citation needed]

The Guiana Space Centre (as per CNES) also contains 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.

Early launches[edit]

  • 10 March 1970 - The first Diamant-B launched the DIAL/MIKA and DIAL/WIKA satellites. DIAL/MIKA failed during launch, but it entered orbit with a total mass of 111 kg.[30] DIAL/WIKA provided data for about two months after launch.[31]

Recent launches[edit]

  • 9 March 2008 — An Ariane 5 launched carrying the ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) Jules Verne in preparation for docking with the International Space Station (ISS). This was the first launch of the ESA unmanned resupply craft.
  • 18 April 2008 — An Ariane 5 launched carrying Vinasat-1 — Vietnam's first satellite.[33]
  • 1 July 2009 — An Ariane 5 carrying TerreStar-1, the heaviest commercial telecommunications satellite ever launched[37]
  • 21 October 2011 — A Soyuz-2 carrying two Galileo satellites was launched. This was the first launch of a Soyuz rocket at the Centre Spatial Guyanais.[39]
  • 17 December 2011 — A Soyuz carrying the French space agency's Pleiades 1 Earth imaging satellite, four ELISA electronic intelligence satellites, and the SSOT remote sensing satellite for the Chilean military. This was the second launch of a Soyuz at the Guiana Space Centre.[40]
  • 13 February 2012 — The Vega, which was designed in Italy, lifted off at 10:00 UTC on its maiden voyage. The launcher released nine satellites into orbit: two Italian satellites and seven pico-satellites.[41]
  • 5 July 2012 — The unmanned Ariane 5 rocket took off to send an American communication satellite and European weather-monitoring spacecraft into orbit. Liftoff occurred at 21:36 UTC.[42]
  • 30 August 2013 — Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched the advanced multi-band communication satellite GSAT-7.[43] It was 17th Indian satellite launched from ESA with Ariane 5.[44]
  • 16 October 2014 — An Ariane 5 launch vehicle carrying the communication satellite ARSAT-1 to orbit. It is the first geostationary satellite built by a Latin American country, Argentina, and the second one of the Americas, after USA.
  • 30 September 2015 — An Ariane 5 launch vehicle carrying the communication satellite ARSAT-2 to orbit, being the second Argentine geostationary satellite built in two years.
  • 1 October 2015 — Sky Muster (NBN-Co 1A) is a communication satellite launched on an Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicle. Sky Muster is the first satellite of an operation to improve Australia's internet with the NBN program.
  • 6 October 2016 — Sky Muster II (NBN-Co 1B) is a communication satellite launched on an Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicle. Sky Muster II is the second satellite of an operation to improve Australia's internet with the NBN program.
  • 28 January 2017 — A Soyuz-2 STB carrying the geostationary communication satellite Hispasat 36W-1 to orbit. It is the first of the ESA's "Small-GEO" class of satellites.
  • 14 February 2017 - An Ariane 5 launch vehicle carrying the commercial communication satellites Sky Brasil 1 (Intelsat 32e) and Telekom 3S launched the satellites to a geostationary orbit.
  • 19 October 2018 - An Ariane 5 launch vehicle launches the European-Japanese BepiColombo mission to Mercury.[45]
  • 5 February 2019 - Ariane 5 launched the Saudi Geostationary Satellite SGS-1 (also known as SaudiGeosat-1/HellasSat-4).

Future launches[edit]

Launch statistics[edit]

As of 2017, Kourou counts amongst the spaceports with the highest percentage of successful launches, both successive and overall. Here is a chronology of all orbital launches from the Kourou spaceport since 1970, under the French and European space programmes.

Flights by launcher[edit]


In development:      Ariane 6    Active:      Ariane 5       Soyuz ST       Vega   
Retired:      Diamant       Europa 2       Ariane 1       Ariane 2       Ariane 3       Ariane 4

Flights by mission outcome[edit]


  Success     Failure     Partial Failure     Scheduled

Charts include all orbital launches from Kourou; sounding rockets are excluded.
Historical data: launch tables from List of Ariane launches, Soyuz ST, Vega and Encyclopedia Aeronautica.
Last updated on 24 September 2021.[49][50]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Europe's Spaceport". Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  3. ^ "CNES at Europe's Spaceport". European Space Agency. ESA.
  4. ^ "ESA at Europe's Spaceport". European Space Agency. ESA.
  5. ^ "Arianespace at Europe's Spaceport". European Space Agency. ESA.
  6. ^ a b "Installation of the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana" Archived 1 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Guiana Space Centre official website
  7. ^ a b "Europe's Spaceport" Archived November 26, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. European Space Agency official website
  8. ^ "Guyane : le Centre spatial guyanais occupé par des manifestants" (in French). La Croix. 5 April 2017. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  9. ^ "Satellite Programmes Overview - Launching Satellites". EUMETSAT. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
  10. ^ "Up, Up, and Away". The Universe: In the Classroom. Astro Society. Archived from the original on 8 August 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  11. ^ "Ariane 5 - Arianespace". Arianespace. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  12. ^ "Commercial Launch Vehicle | ILS Proton Breeze M | International Launch Services". Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  13. ^ "Vehicles: Falcon Heavy". SpaceX. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  14. ^ "EUROPA II (1971)". CNES. 21 August 2019. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  15. ^ "Pad List - World Launch Sites". Space Launch Report. Archived from the original on 22 October 2009.
  16. ^ "Vega Liftoff". 13 February 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2013.
  17. ^ "Guiana Space Center - Site advantages". Arianespace. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  18. ^ "The Spaceport's ELA-2 launch facility is dismantled after an illustrious career". Arianespace. 26 September 2011. Archived from the original on 30 June 2019.
  19. ^ "Europe's spaceport". ESA.
  20. ^ "Construction update photographs". DutchSpace.
  21. ^ SpaceflightNow's VS01 flight status page Archived May 14, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Harvey, Brian (10 August 2007). Space Exploration 2007. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-387-48758-8.
  23. ^ (in French) Le Port Spatial de l'Europe (CNES) Archived September 30, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ "Europe To Pay Russia To Build Soyuz Pad At Kourou: Russia". SpaceDaily.
  25. ^ "Soyuz, Vega flights from French Guiana set for 2011".
  26. ^ "Arianespace hosts meeting of launch system manufacturers" (Press release). Evry. 11 October 2010.
  27. ^ Messier, Doug (22 October 2011). "Soyuz Launches From Kourou for First Time". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  28. ^ "Arianespace receives its fifth Ariane 5 of 2008". Arianespace. 28 July 2008.[permanent dead link]
  29. ^ "Ariane 5 rolls out for Arianespace's fifth launch of 2007". Arianespace. 8 November 2007. Archived from the original on 25 January 2008.
  30. ^ "DIAL/MIKA - NSSDC ID: 1970-017B". NASA NSSDC. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  31. ^ "DIAL/WIKA - NSSDC ID: 1970-017A". NASA NSSDC. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  32. ^ "Arianespace boosts Intelsat 11 and Optus D2 into orbit". Arianespace. Archived from the original on 1 June 2008.
  33. ^ "Vietnam successfully pilots Vinasat-1". VietNamNet. 22 April 2011. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
  34. ^ Archived January 22, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ "Eutelsat's Hot Bird 9 and W2M Satellites Lofted into Orbit" (PDF) (Press release). Paris: Eutelsat Communications. 20 December 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 April 2012.
  36. ^ "ESA en route to the origins of the Universe". ESA. 14 May 2009. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
  37. ^ Amos, Jonathan (1 July 2009). "Ariane lofts biggest 'space bird'". BBC. Retrieved 2 July 2009.
  38. ^ "Helios 2". Archived from the original on 31 October 2012. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  39. ^ Rosenberg, Zach. "First Soyuz launch from French Guiana". FlightGlobal. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  40. ^ "Arianespace VSO2 mission: Soyuz STA orbits Pleiades 1A, ELISA and SSOT". Arianespace. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  41. ^ "Successful lift-off for Vega rocket". News24.
  42. ^ "Follow Ariane launch live". Centre National d'Études Spatiales. CNES.
  43. ^ India launches first defence satellite GSAT-7 Archived January 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  44. ^ Navy's first satellite GSAT-7 now in the Space Archived November 1, 2014, at The Hindu, August 30, 2013 by Madhumati D. S.
  45. ^ "BepiColombo Spacecraft Launch on 7-Year Trek to Mercury for Europe and Japan". Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  46. ^ "Ariane 5 launches Mission Extension Vehicle, two communications satellites to orbit". 14 August 2020. Retrieved 17 August 2020.
  47. ^ "JWST factsheet". Archived from the original on 6 May 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2021.
  48. ^ "NASA Completes Webb Telescope Review, Commits to Launch in Early 2021". 27 June 2018. Archived from the original on 30 June 2018. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  49. ^ Clark, Stephen (26 October 2018). "Launch schedule". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  50. ^ "Le Centre Spatial Guyanais - CNES".

External links[edit]