Our 5 favourite places to watch rocket launches in French Guiana

Ever since 1968, when the first rocket was launched from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, Ariane 5, Soyouz, and Vega rocket launches have regularly pierced the skies of French Guiana.

At a pace of around one launch every month, there’s plenty of opportunity to see lift-off for yourself.

As close as possible to the base

Identifying yourself in advance (you have to request an invitation) you can watch the launch for free from one of five of the Guiana Space Centre’s close observation sites (5.1km to 7.5km from the launch pad). You can request a pass online or by post for Agami (for kids aged 16+) and Ibis (ages 8+) observation sites, and the Toucan, Colibri (aged 16+) and Jupiter (ages 12+) VIP observation sites. Which sites are open depends on the type of launch. Colibri is only open for Soyouz launches, and Toucan is closed for Vega launches as it does not offer a view.

The Jupiter Control Room at the Guiana Space Centre

Amongst the close observation sites, the Jupiter Control Room is in a class of its own, with views of the control room. Right at the heart of the action, 232 lucky guests will be able to follow every step of the launch thanks to retransmissions on the gigantic video wall.

Mount Carapa in Kourou

It’s free to access, but it’s worth your while to watch a launch from Mount Carapa: climb the steep path to the top, and don’t dawdle because numbers are limited (maximum 1500 people). But at just 12.5km from the base, it’s really worth it. A good show is guaranteed, and a big screen shows different sequences of images.

Plage des Roches beach in Kourou

For families, and those with young children in particular, the beach is a good alternative. The rockets lift off over the sea, so the views are perfect, and hawk-eyed observers might even see the rocket jettison its boosters and nosecone. Night launches add a touch of mystery to this unusual pyrotechnic display, but daytimes are good, too, when people suddenly look up from their everyday picnics and swimming to watch the white line that splits the horizon.

Place des Amandiers in Cayenne

Overlooking the sea, this spot affords a clear view of the horizon, so that you can keep a close eye on the trajectory. As a bonus, you can get the latest news from the space programme on a big screen showing images of launches and explanatory videos about satellites. Kids are welcome to explore all kinds of space flight with dedicated activities: rocket-balloon launches, cosmic face-painting... plenty to inspire budding astronauts!

Getting to French Guiana