All Ariane launches are conducted at ESA facilities located on the French Centre Spatial Guyanais grounds in Kourou, French Guiana. Kourou was the site of eight launches of the French Diamant BSBP boosters during 1970-1975 before the maiden flight of Ariane 1 in 1979. Currently, only one launch pad, ELA-2, is operational for all Ariane 4 missions. Another pad, ELA-3, is nearing completion for the larger Ariane 5. Both pads are designed for rapid refurbishment in case of a major launch vehicle accident. Launches are conducted essentially eastward for GTO missions and to the northeast or northwest for LEO posigrade and retrograde orbits, respectively.
In 1993 a major multi-year renovation project was undertaken in Kourou to support not only the forthcoming Ariane 5 but also the continuing Ariane 4 missions. By the end of 1994 nearly all Ariane 5 support facilities were finished or nearing completion, and the first on pad tests of the Ariane 5 main stage had been achieved. In addition, improvements to radar, telemetry, telecommunications, and operational facilities were underway. Also in 1994 Aerospatiale and Russia's Khrunichev State Space Research and Production Center discussed the feasibility of building launch facilities for the Proton-M at Kourou (References 57-60).
57. Annual Report '93, ESA, May 1994.
58. Annual Report '94, ESA, June 1995.
59. "Europeans Begin Massive Renovation at Kourou Site", Space News , 22-28 February 1993, p. 13.
60. Interfax, Moscow, 12 October and 22 November 1994.