There are three rocket types that are launched from the Guiana Space Center, Vega, Soyuz 2, and Ariane 5.

Vega rockets are the lightweight workhorse of Arianespace. The height is 29.9 m (98.1 ft), diameter is 3.02 m (9.91 ft). Launch mass is 137,000 kg (302,000 lb). It can carry 1,500 kg (3,310 lb) to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

The Soyuz 2 rockets are built in Russia and shipped to Kourou. They are assembled horizontally, and then erected on the launch pad. The launch tower then moves the rocket to the launch pad over the exhaust tunnel.

Soyuz 2 rockets are 46.1 m (151.2 ft) high, 3.95 m (12.96 ft) in diameter, have a launch mass of 308,000 kg (679,000 lb). They can lift 7,800 kg (17,200 lb) to LEO.

Ariane 5 rockets have been launched more than 75 times since 1996. The Ariane 5 rocket is 50.5 m (165.7 ft) high, has a diameter of 5.4 m (17.7 ft), 11.5 m (37.7 ft) with the boosters. Launch mass is 773,000 kg (1,704,200 lb). It can lift 21,000 kg (46,300 lb) to LEO.

The main engine of the Ariane 5, Vulcan 2, is fueled by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. The mass of the fuel and oxidizer is 170  t. It provides 8% of the take-off thrust, the rest is provided by the booster rockets. The burn time of the main engine is 650 sec, thrust at sea level is 960 kN (kiloNewton), in vacuum 1,340 kN.

Ariane 5 uses two solid fuel rocket boosters. Their burn time is 129 sec, thrust is 6,470 kN. Their diameter is 3.05 m (10.01 ft), length is 32.6 m (107.0 ft), total mass is 268,000 kg (590,800 lb) each, with a propellant mass of 237,000 kg (522,500 lb) each.

Putting together an Ariane 5 rocket starts at the Integration Building were the satellites and other components are put together. It then moves to the Assembly Building, where the Ariane rocket is assembled vertically. The rocket is then transported by rail to the launch complex. This step occurs about 12 hours before launch.

Just before ignition, large amounts of water from the water tower are dumped into the exhaust tunnels in order to suppress the acoustic loads that occur during Main Engine and Booster ignition.

Currently, the next generation rocket, Ariane 6, is being developed. The launch facility for the Ariane 6 is already under construction. It will have a height of 63 m (207 ft), a diameter of 5.4 m (17.7 ft). The launch mass will be 500,000-800,000 kg (1,102,000-1,764,000 lb). It will come in two variants, Ariane 62 with two booster rockets, and Ariane 64, with four booster rockets.

All pictures are © Dr. Günther Eichhorn, unless otherwise noted.

ESA Spaceport

Arianespace Launch Control Center
Arianespace launch control center. (793k)
Arianespace Launch Control Center
Arianespace launch control center with models of the three rocket types that are launched from the space center: Vega, Soyuz 2, and Ariane 5. (783k)
Security Around Launch Sites
Security around the launch sites is strict. (1303k)
Vega Launch Complex
Vega launch complex. (570k)
Soyuz Assembly Building
Soyuz assembly building. (662k)
Shipping Container Soyuz Parts
Shipping container for Soyuz parts. (656k)
Soyuz Launch Tower
Soyuz launch tower. (767k)
Soyuz Launch Tower Looking
Soyuz launch tower, looking into the exhaust tunnel. (663k)
Rails Soyuz Launch Tower
Rails for the Soyuz launch tower. (772k)
Ariane Integration Building
Ariane integration building. (626k)
Ariane Assembly Building
Ariane assembly building. (536k)
Ariane Launch Complex Launch
Ariane launch complex with the launch tower at right and one of the exhaust tunnels at left. In the foreground are the rails for transporting the assembled Ariane rocket to the launch zone. (819k)
Ariane Launch Tower Left
Ariane launch tower (left) and the water tower (right). (729k)
Closer View Launch Tower
Closer view of the launch tower and exhaust tunnel. (641k)
Launch Pad Circular Exhaust
Launch pad with the circular exhaust for the main engine in the middle and the exhaust tunnels for the boosters in front and behind. (688k)
Water Pipe Dumping Water
The water pipe for dumping water into the exhaust tunnels. The pipe has a diameter of about 2 m (7 ft). (696k)
Storage Tanks Liquid Oxygen
Storage tanks for liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. (959k)
Full-scale Model Ariane 5
Full-scale model of the Ariane 5 rocket. Notice the human figure on the lower left pad for size comparison. (635k)
Tracking Station South Kourou
Tracking station south of Kourou, used to track the rocket just after launch. (507k)

This page contains 19 pictures

French Guiana
Main page for Guyane Française (French Guiana)

Page last updated on Sun Mar 10 16:07:39 2019 (Mountain Standard Time)

ESA Spaceport in Kourou, Guyane Française (French Guiana) on

© Dr. Günther Eichhorn
Email Guenther Eichhorn

*Dr. Günther Eichhorn Travel Website
*Soaring website