Workers broke ground this week on a new construction site at the European Space Agency’s new Soyuz launch base in French Guiana. Currently, Soyuz rockets only blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. But at the end of 2008, the rockets will roar from this facility as well.
ESA chose to bring Soyuz rockets to the French Guiana facility because it’s close to the equator. Rockets launched from the equator get an additional speed boost from the Earth’s rotation, and so they can carry heavier loads into orbit.
To help tie the facility back to Soyuz’s origins, an original stone from the launch pad where Yuri Gagarin became the first human into space was brought over from Kazakhstan keep at the new facility.
Original Source: ESA News Release