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21 October 2011, a Soyuz launcher roared off the pad on its first-ever flight from the Guiana Space Centre (CSG), carrying aloft two European Galileo satellites. This milestone event marked the culmination of a collaboration initiated in 2003 by the European Space Agency (ESA), the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos and CNES, the initiator of the Soyuz in Guiana programme and owner of the CSG.
Standing 40.5 metres tall and with a mass of 308 tonnes, Soyuz ST (for Special Tropics launcher) is capable of placing payloads of up to 3.2 tonnes into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), taking maximum advantage of the ‘slingshot’ effect imparted as a result of the CSG’s near-equatorial position. Built in Russia, Soyuz ST has been adapted to the weather conditions in French Guiana and to the base’s range safety regulations. It is commercially operated by European launch services provider Arianespace.
Between 2011 and 2018, 20 Soyuz launchers lifted off from the purpose-built launch complex constructed by CNES in the municipality of Sinnamary.