The spaceport in Kourou is always being updated as new launchers are introduced. Since 1997, the spaceport has mainly been used by the heavy-lift Ariane 5. The ELA-3 launch zone was expanded so that the Ariane-5’s upper stages can be fuelled when the rocket is on the launch pad. ESA and Arianespace also built a new complex where satellites can be checked out. This is big enough to hold the 20-tonne Automated Transfer Vehicles that fly to the International Space Station.
Two more launchers have joined Ariane-5. The first of Europe’s small Vega rockets lifted off from Kourou on 13 February 2012. ESA spent €45 million to adapt the old Ariane-1 launch zone (ELA-1) for its use. It is now known as the ZLV launch facility (‘Zone de Lancement Vega’ in French).
Another new launch complex has been built for the Russian medium-lift Soyuz rocket, which started flying from Kourou in 2011. The Soyuz site, known as ELS (‘Ensemble de Lancement Soyouz’ in French), is located 13 km northwest of the Ariane-5 launch site. It includes a new rocket assembly building, control centre and launch pad.
Last update: 29 October 2013