A new liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen production plant is being readied for service to support Arianespace's sustained mission rate for the heavy-lift Ariane 5 and its upcoming introduction of the medium-lift Soyuz. This new plant is to replace the Spaceport's existing 30-year-old facility, and will offer a higher production output for liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen, as well as significantly larger storage capacity. Its acceptance phase is expected to be completed by the end of 2010.
Liquid oxygen is used as a propellant in Ariane 5 and Soyuz. In addition, a portion of the plant's output is supplied to all of the hospitals in French Guiana — as the Spaceport is the only production source for liquid oxygen in this French overseas department. Liquid nitrogen has a number of applications at the Spaceport, including its use as an inerting gas on the launch pad; for ventilation, cleaning and pressurization during launcher preparation; for the pneumatic operation of valves within the Spaceport launch site's infrastructure; and for the cool-down of gas and liquid oxygen propellant before their loading on the launch vehicles. The installation of four large tanks at the new plant will enable storage of 760 cubic meters of liquid oxygen and 750 cubic meters of liquid nitrogen, providing the capacity to support the Ariane 5 and Soyuz launchers at their planned mission rates.
Development of the new production facility is part of Arianespace's overall effort to ensure the Spaceport remains one of the world's most modern and flexible launch facilities. Its construction is funded with financial investments by the company and the European Space Agency. The new facility was built adjacent to the Spaceport's existing liquid oxygen/liquid nitrogen plant, which is located near the former Ariane 4 launcher integration building. The current plant will be dismantled after its replacement is fully operational.