Sunday, March 23, 2014

Isolated Rails to Space - ESA French Guiana

French Guiana, in the northeast coast of S. America, is the last outpost of Euopean colonialism on the continent.  The country is an Overseas Department of France, is considered part of the EU, and uses the Euro for currency. French Guiana's major piece of transportation infrastructure is a asphalted road, not completed till 2004, which stretches along the coast from the border with Suriname, to the border with Brazil. Their real claim to transportation fame though, is the Guiana Space Center operated by the European Space Agency, the French CNES, and Arianespace.

The Space Center is located only 5 degrees north of the Equator, and thus is able to take advantage of the rotational speed of the earth to hurl satellites into orbit. There are two distinct space ports at the site, each with their own distinct railway system. The top photos show the Soyuz launch system, using a depressed-center type flatcar as part of the railway carriage.

Fuel for the Soyuz.

The other, larger, and older complex, seen in the photos below, launch the Ariane rockets, and uses a parallel rails system.  You can see an animation here, of an Ariane being moved from an assembly building to the launch pad.  All images in this post are either from the ESA or Arianespace.

Space vehicles and fuel arrive via ship at the port of Korou.

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