Guiana Space Centre
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Guiana Space Centre

Located near Kourou in French Guiana, the Guiana Space Centre is a French and European spaceport that has been operating since 1968. The location was chosen for the unique geographical requirements for a spaceport. First, its location near the equator means that the spinning Earth imparts extra velocity when rockets are launched eastward. Second, the area is mostly uninhabited, so there is little danger of aircraft or debris falling on local populations. In fact, whenever there is an eastward launch, the tourist destinations on the Îles du Salut are evacuated to ensure everyone's safety. The center was originally built to launch the Europa-II rocket, then subsequently the satellite-carrying Ariane rockets until 1989. Since 2012, it has served as the launch pad for the Vega rocket, an expandable launch system that carries small payloads, such as satellites for scientific observation of the North and South Poles. Guided tours are conducted twice daily, except on or around launch days.

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