ESA conducts orbital space launches from its only spaceport: Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. Guiana Space Center launches the Soyuz, Ariane 5, and Vega space launch vehicles. The European spaceport is one of the closest active spaceports to the Earth’s equator.
China’s orbital space launch activities are conducted through three spaceports: Xichang, Jiuquan, and Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centers. Nearly 50% of the country’s 2015 space launches originated from Xichang. A fourth launch site, Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, was completed in October 2014 and will be used to launch China’s new Long March 5 space launch vehicle sometime in 2016.
There are three active or planned orbital space launch sites in Russia: Dombarovskiy, Plesetsk, and Vostochny. But in 2015, the site the Russians launched 69% of their space launch vehicles was from Baikonur Cosmodrome, located in the Republic of Kazakhstan. Of the 26 Russian launches conducted, 18 originated in Baikonur. The other eight were launched from the Russian spaceports of Plesetsk and Dombarovskiy.
In the United States and its territories, 42% of the spaceports have active launch site operator licenses granted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The remaining 58% of U.S. spaceports are either proposed, in development, or government-operated. Of the 24 current and future spaceports, 14 were used to conduct orbital or suborbital launches in 2015.
During 2015, the Satish Dhawan Space Center (SDSC), located in India’s Sriharikota Range, was India’s only spaceport supporting orbital space vehicle launches. The…
Of Japan’s two spaceports, Tanegashima and Uchinoura Space Centers, Tanegashima was the only spaceport conducting orbital space launch vehicle launches in 2015. Uchinoura…
China is rumored to have completed its newest spaceport, Wenchang Satellite Launch Center. Located on the coast of the southern Chinese island of Hainan, the spaceport will be able to receive large rocket stages transported via ship, avoiding railway tunnels and bridges.
Vostochny Cosmodrome, formerly an old nuclear missile base called Svobodny, is slated to become Russia’s newest spaceport when it begins operations in 2015. After years of delay, construction at the site began in 2011 at an estimated cost of $## billion. The cosmodrome is located in Russia’s Far East and is expected to serve as Russia’s primary launch facility once it reaches fully operational status.
SpaceX, builder of the Falcon 9 space launch vehicle, broke ground in September 2014 for a new spaceport near Brownsville, Texas. While actual building activity is not scheduled until later in 2015, SpaceX plans to launch from the site as early as 2016. Once construction on the site is completed, it would be the closest launch site to the Earth’s equator on U.S. soil.
Space launch vehicles and their payloads are prepared and subsequently launched or deployed from facilities called spaceports. The scale of spaceports varies widely, whether measuring the area they cover or the activities they host.