French Guiana

Coat of Arms of French Guiana1
The flag of French Guiana is one and the same as the flag of France.

“Guyana” is the native Amerindian word for, “the land of many waters”. It was the name given to the Northeastern region of South America between the Amazon and Oricono Rivers, a land of lakes and rivers and magical with spectacular waterfalls. When the Europeans arrived, they carved it into colonies, naming them, from East to West, Portuguese Guiana, French Guiana, Dutch Guiana, British Guiana and Spanish Guiana. As more time elapsed, Portuguese Guiana became subsumed into Portuguese Brazil as the state of Amapa. Dutch Guiana and British Guiana became independent as Suriname and Guyana. Spanish Guyana was subsumed as the Guyana region of Venezuela. French Guiana remains united with European France.

The Guyana image by: By ArnoldPlaton – Own work, based on this map and the map from this article, CC BY-SA 3.0,

South American French Guiana is not an independent country. It is a fully integral part of the Republic of France. It’s area is approximately 1/7 the size of European France and is a part of the EU.

Guiana Space Port

In 1968 a space center was established in French Guiana. It’s nearness to the equator facilitates launches into a geostationary orbit, also known as a geo-synchronous orbit, an orbit often used for commercial purposes such as communications and weather observations.2

Angular horizontal measurement from true north is termed Azimuth. I associate the letters Z and A in azimuth with horizontal and angular to aid my memory.

Johannes Kepler established six fundamental elements in the description of celestial orbits. Two relate to the orbital shape; two relate to the orbital orientation; the remaining two can be said to relate to the orbital tilt.

Two variables describe the orbital shape. These are the eccentricity and the semi-major axis. Simple two body orbits are elliptical in shape. The eccentricity describes how far different the orbital ellipse is from a perfect circle. The semi-major axis describes the size of the orbital ellipse. It is essentially the average distance between the centers of the two bodies, more specifically, the addition of the periapsis (nearest distance) and apoapsis (furthest distance) divided by two.

Two variables describe the orbital plane. These are the inclination and the longitude of the ascending node. The inclination is the angle between the orbital plane and a reference plane. The ascending (and descending) node marks the intersection point of the orbit with the reference plane. The longitude of the ascending node is the horizontal angle between the vernal point of the plane of reference and the ascending node.

Two variables may be said to describe the orbital tilt. The argument of the periapsis and the true anomaly at epoch. The argument of the periapsis is the angle within the orbital plane between the ascending node and periapsis. The true anomaly of the epoch describes the position of the orbiting body at a particular point in time, the epoch. .

The Guyana Space Port has been selected for the launch of the much anticipated James Web Space Telescope (JWST). The carrying vehicle will be the Ariane 5, a European Heavy Lift Vehicle (HLV), considered one of the world’s premier launch vehicles for reliability. The JWST will be loaded upon a specially equipped barge in Southern California where it was manufactured. From there it will be transported southward to Panama. There it will cross through the Panama canal into the Caribbean Sea. Then it will travel the Sea to port in French Guiana. From there it will be transported to the Guiana Space Port and prepared for launch.


  1. attribution: Henriquebachelor, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  2. The more often utilized orbits include:

    • Geostationary Orbit (GEO)
    • Low Earth Orbit (LEO)
    • Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)
    • Polar orbit and Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO)
    • Transfer orbits and geostationary transfer orbit (GTO)
    • Lagrange points (L-points)