The Soyuz site at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana

Construction of the Soyuz site began in February 2007, although initial excavation and ground infrastructure work began in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

Russian staff arrived in French Guiana in mid-2008 to assemble the launch table, mobile gantry, fuelling systems and test benches.

The first two Soyuz launchers arrived from Russia by sea in November 2009 to be assembled in the new preparation and integration building.

The launch site is almost identical to the other Soyuz sites in Kazakhstan and Russia, although adapted to conform to European safety regulations.

Soyuz launch site

Soyuz launch site

The site consists of three main zones: the launch platform, the preparation area (or MIK), where the three stages will be assembled horizontally and checked, and the launch control centre.

The MIK

The MIK

The most visible difference is the 45 meter tall mobile gantry, which provides a protected environment as payloads, starting with Galileo IOV satellites, are installed on the vertical launcher. Its internal movable work platforms provide access to the Soyuz at various levels. The gantry is a comparatively lightweight structure: about 800 tonnes.

Soyuz mobile gantry

Soyuz mobile gantry

The MIK is connected to the launch platform by a 700-metre railway, which is used to transport the launcher in a horizontal position. The launch control centre is one kilometre from the launch pad.

Soyuz railway infrastructure

Soyuz railway infrastructure

The Soyuz launch site is operated by Arianespace, and was already fully qualified for all activities starting with the initial 21 October 2011 Galileo IOV flight.

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