The Guiana Space Centre or, more commonly, Centre Spatial Guyanais is a French and European spaceport to the northwest of Kourou in French Guiana. The European Space Agency, the French space agency CNES, and this was the spaceport used by the ESA to send supplies to the International Space Station using the Automated Transfer Vehicle. The location was selected in 1964 to become the spaceport of France, in 1975, France offered to share Kourou with ESA. Commercial launches are bought also by non-European companies, ESA pays two thirds of the spaceports annual budget and has also financed the upgrades made during the development of the Ariane launchers. Since April 4,2017, the centre has been occupied by 30 labor union leaders in the midst of the 2017 social unrest in French Guiana, Kourou is located approximately 500 kilometres north of the equator, at a latitude of 5°10. The near-equatorial launch location provides an advantage for launches to low-inclination Earth orbits compared to launches from spaceports at higher latitude, the proximity to the equator also makes maneuvering satellites for geosynchronous orbits simpler and less costly. Originally built in the 1960s under the name of CECLES, the ELV pad located at 5. 236°N52. 775°W /5.236, one Europa-II was launched from the site, before the programme was cancelled. The pad was demolished, and subsequently rebuilt as the first launch complex for Ariane rockets, renamed ELA, it was used for Ariane 1 and Ariane 2 and 3 launches until being retired in 1989. It was again refurbished for the Vega with the first launch performed on 13 February 2012, the ELA2 pad, located at 5. 232°N52. 776°W /5.232, -52.776 had been used for Ariane 4 launches until 2003. ELA3 has been active for Ariane 5 launches since 1996 and this facility is located at 5. 239°N52. 768°W /5.239, -52.768 and covers an area of 21 square kilometres. ESA has built ELS at 5. 305°N52. 834°W /5.305, the first Soyuz launch from ELS was postponed several times, but launched on October 21,2011. ELS is located on the territory of Sinnamary commune,27 km from Kourou harbor and it is 10 km north of the site used for the Ariane 5 launches. Russia will use the Guiana Space Centre in addition to Baikonur Cosmodrome, the Guiana location has the significant benefit of greatly increased payload capability, owing to the near equatorial position. A Soyuz rocket with a 1.7 tonnes to geostationary transfer orbit performance from Baikonur, the ELS project is being co-funded by Arianespace, ESA, and the European Union, with CNES being the prime contractor. The project has a projected cost of approximately €320 million, where €120 million are allocated for modernizing the Soyuz vehicle, the official opening of the launch site construction occurred on 27 February 2007. Excavation work however, had begun several months beforehand. By October 2010,18 launch contracts had been signed, Arianespace has ordered 24 launchers from Russian industry. On October 21,2011, two Galileo IOV-1 & IOV-2 satellites were launched using a Soyuz-ST rocket, in the first Russian Soyuz vehicle ever launched from Europes Spaceport in French Guiana, astrium assembles each Ariane 5 launcher in the Launcher Integration Building
The now-decommissioned ELA 2 - l'Ensemble de Lancement Ariane 2 Ariane 4 launch site
The final assembly building for Ariane 5
An Ariane 5 lifts off from Kourou on 29 August 2013.