France in Space #304

Status Report From: Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES)
Posted: Thursday, August 11, 2005


The Ariane 5-G launcher successfully put into orbit the THAICOM 4 (IPSTAR) satellite from the European spaceport in French Guiana on August 11. This 6.4-ton payload is the heaviest commercial satellite ever delivered to geosynchronous orbit. Built for the operator Shin Satellite Plc of Thailand by Space Systems/Loral, the large telecom platform is to provide Internet access and broadband services throughout 14 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. According the CNES President Yannick d'Escatha, "this great success confirms once again the technical and operational maturity of the Ariane 5 vehicle, the European launcher which ensures to Arianespace's customers a high-level service for theirs satellites, and to Europe the guaranteed access to space it needs to fulfil its space policy ambitions." [Arianespace 08/11/2005, CNES 08/11/2005]


The MARSIS instrument (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding) onboard ESA's Mars Express spacecraft is currently collecting its first data of the surface and the ionosphere. So far, the results are in line with the expectations of the scientists from the University of Rome and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The surface measurements taken in the northern hemisphere of the planet are consistent with the existing models of Mars's topography. The scientists now plan to further study the information coming from the subsurface layers. MARSIS is also performing well to collect data from the ionosphere. The scientists are now investigating to what extent the activity of charged particles detected in this atmospheric layer are due to solar activity.

This first phase of measurements will be conducted until the end of August since at that time, the instruments cannot operate in night-time anymore. Other instruments like the HRSC camera and Omega mapping spectrometer, which observe in day-time, will then be at the core of the scientific mission. MARSIS will pursue the sounding of the Mars's subsurface in December. [ESA 08/05/2005]


The European organization for the exploitation of meteorological satellites, Eumetsat, is going to play a central role in Europe's implementation of the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) program, through both satellite constellations and environment-related centers.

Eumetsat currently operates four geostationary Meteosat satellites including Meteosat-8, the first of four planned satellites of the second-generation series. The next one, MSG-2 (Meteosat Second Generation), should be launched by the end of the year and is intended to operate until 2015. Eumetsat is also developing a series of polar-orbiting meteorological satellites MetOp, and expects the launch of the first spacecraft in 2006. This program is led in partnership with NOAA, both organizations providing instruments on each other's satellites. Eumetsat also considers follow-on programs by planning for its third generation of Meteosat meteorological satellites, which could be operational around 2015. Yet there are still some uncertainties concerning the funding level of the Earth observation programs by ESA and the European Commission, some of which could be resolved during ESA's Council Meeting at Ministerial Level scheduled next December.

Beyond the operations of meteorological satellites, Eumetsat is involved in the development of environmental monitoring applications. It has financed eight satellite application facilities dedicated to specific environment tasks, the latest example being a new center in Italy which will focus on hydrology and precipitation data. [Space News 07/18/2005]


In a preparatory document for ESA's Ministerial Council in December 2005, the agency considers to spend 22 percent of its total budget between 2006 and 2010 on launchers programs. Whereas this proposal will be debated in detail over the next six months, this plan reflects ESA's main priorities. The biggest part of the budget will be dedicated to the Ariane 5 program and has a three-fold objective: guarantying the European access to space, consolidating the launcher and preparing its evolution, continuing the R&T efforts to monitor Ariane 5's performance. Some modifications of the launcher that ESA is working on would permit Ariane 5 to launch part of Galileo satellite navigation constellation as well as ESA's Herschel and Plank scientific probes, likely in mid-2007.

Moreover, programs dedicated to the Vega launcher's development and to the adaptation of the Guiana Space Center in Kourou to Vega and Soyuz figure prominently in ESA's prospective plans. The Vega small-satellite launcher is scheduled to make its first launch in 2007. Russia's new version of Soyuz will be operated from French Guiana starting in late 2008. Finally, ESA is implementing its Future Launcher Preparatory Program to prepare the new-generation vehicles after 2020. Early studies are focusing on expendable and reusable technologies. [Space News 07/25/2005]


On July19 ESA's Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain and the CNES's President Yannick d'Escatha signed a contract concerning the development of the program "Soyuz in Kourou". This signature is a major step for the construction of the ground infrastructure at Europe Spaceport in French Guiana and for the development of the Soyuz 2-1b launch vehicle. Preparatory activities have in fact already started and this contract ensures that Arianespace should be able to begin commercial exploitation of Soyuz launchers from Europe's Spaceport in the second half of 2008.  [ESA 07/21/2005]

** 6: IN BRIEF

ESA has awarded a contract to the Italian company Vitrociset to build the ground segment of the Vega small launcher at the Europe's spaceport in French Guiana. Vega's first launch from this spaceport is expected in 2007. [Aviation Week 08/01/2005]

Following its ratification of the ESA Convention, Luxembourg has become ESA's 17th Member State effective June 30, 2005. Luxembourg has been participating in ESA's ARTES telecommunications programme since September 2000 and formally applied to become an ESA Member State in December 2003. According to ESA's Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain "Luxembourg has already acquired space experience through its involvement in Intelsat, Eutelsat and Eurocontrol and will reinforce the European dimension of ESA." [ESA 08/05/2005, 05/03/2004]

The next issue of France in Space will be published August 31.

France In Space is a weekly synthesis of French space activities based on French press. Its content does not reflect an official position of the French Government or CNES. It is provided by the CNES office and the Office of Science and Technology of the French Embassy in Washington D.C Editors: Jean-Jacques Tortora, Clémence Le Fèvre, Valéry Tessier-Lèon

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About CNES

"CNES develops and leads national space programmes. The main thrust of its action is to serve France's ambition to sustain a strong space capability and contribute to scientific discovery at the highest levels. CNES is committed to fostering innovative space technologies that meet the current and future needs of society. Most programmes are pursued in cooperation with international partners. CNES also plays a central role in programmes initiated by ESA, the European Space Agency, to which it is a major contributor. It is thus a driving force behind ESA programmes and activities".

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