ESA has invested more than €2 billion in improving and developing Europe's Spaceport in Kourou. ESA owns the launch facilities and the industrial plants.
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 modified 29 October 2013