Three launch pads at Europe’s Spaceport
2012 will see three very different rockets lift off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana: the heavy Ariane 5, the medium Soyuz and the latest addition, the new, small Vega.
This image shows, for the first time, all three launch pads on the same photo.
To the right is the Ariane 5 site, specifically built for the rocket. It can handle up to ten missions per year.
The Soyuz complex (in the background) is 13 km northwest of the Ariane 5 site. The first Soyuz from here lifted off on 21 October 2011. This was a historic event because it was the first time that a Soyuz had been launched from a spaceport other than Baikonur or Plesetsk.
To the left is the new Vega site, located at the previous launch complex originally used for Ariane 1 and Ariane 3 missions. The pad and infrastructure have been adapted for Vega and a new mobile gantry provides a protected environment to assemble and check the vehicle.
The launch window for Vega’s inaugural flight opens on 9 February.