France in Space #320

Status Report From: Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES)
Posted: Wednesday, January 4, 2006


December 28th, at 19 minutes past midnight (Washington time), Giove-A, the first experimental satellite of the future Galileo navigation system, lifted off from Baikonur. Using a Soyouz-Fregat rocket, the satellite was placed into orbit at 23,222 kilometers above Earth approximately four hours after launch. Giove-A, weighing about 600 kilos (1320 pounds) and equipped with two atomic clocks and a signal generator, was constructed by the British company SSTL (Surrey Satellite Technology Limited). Europe hopes that by 2010 the thirty satellites that will make up the Galileo constellation will be operational and thus capable of supplying its services to commercial clients (such as transport planes, fleets of boats and trucks, taxis and cars, etc.). The system will allow the localization of a precise object, in real time, at an accuracy of up to one meter. It is the first time that ESA, working together with the European Union, has sent a satellite into mid-Earth orbit, a position that guarantees a greater stability for the satellite. [Le Monde 12/28/05, Agence France Presse 12/28/05]


The Ariane 5G launcher celebrated its 169th launch on December 21st, 2005, with the simultaneous send-off of two satellites. Taking off from Kourou in French Guiana, the launcher placed INSAT 4A, ISRO's (Indian Space Research Organization) telecommunication satellite, and MSG-2, EUMETSAT's meteorological satellite, into orbit. The MSG2 satellite was built by Alcatel Alenia Space (acting as prime contractor) and is the second new generation satellite in a succession of four to be sent into geostationary orbit. ISRO's INSAT 4A, the first in the INSAT 4 series will provide Direct-To-Home (DTH) television services. [Alcatel Alenia Space 12/22/05, CNES 12/21/05]


The launch of the MSG2 meteorological satellite will guarantee that weather forecasters all over Europe continue to receive precise satellite images thanks to its Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI). However, the satellite also carries a smaller and lesser known instrument designed to measure the net balance between incoming radiation from the Sun and outgoing radiation from the Earth, also know as the "Earth Radiation Budget". Scientists have found that this balance is the energy source for the planet's atmospheric system and the decisive driver of weather phenomena and climate. The instrument, or Geostationary Earth Radiation Budget (GERB), was first launched in August 2002 aboard MSG1, and has since been helping scientists observe how hour-by-hour variations in clouds affect the radiation balance. GERB is also being used to enhance scientific understanding of how human activities are modifying the climate balance. The GERB International Science Team (GIST), which compiles and examines the data, is made up of scientists from the UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the USA. Scientists intend to fly GERB on all four MSG satellites in order to continue to monitor the Earth Radiation Budget for at least the next fifteen years and detect any long term trends.


In the days that followed the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami Earth Observation satellites and satellite-based mapping proved to be crucial to the recovery and reconstruction efforts. Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), a joint ESA and European Union program, is still, to this day, providing spaced-based assistance. One part of GMES Services in particular, called Respond, is working to improve access to maps, satellite imagery and geo-information for the humanitarian aid community. The program continues to play an important role in providing satellite-based maps to the affected areas. The Asian tsunami represents the largest-scale event that the program has faced since its creation in 2003.

Immediately following the catastrophe, the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters was activated, which prioritized the acquisition of satellite data over the affected regions. Respond also reacted quickly and created over 210 individual maps, using more than 19 different satellites, and thus fulfilling the Charter requirements in a speedy manner. All images created were made available on the web sites of the Respond partners and therefore were able to meet the needs of relief organizations. At the request of CNES, SERTIT (Regional Service of Image Treatment and Remote Sensing) started producing satellite images on December 29, 2004 over Sri Lanka. To this day the images taken since the tsunami are used in the clean-up and reconstruction efforts. [ESA 12/23/05] For more information on Respond, visit:


The ExoMars probe has finally received the funding needed (650 million euros –slightly more than expected) that will most likely allow it to be launched, via a Soyouz rocket, in 2011. Unfortunately, the new date will mean that it will take the probe two years to reach Mars, while the two American rovers and even the Mars Express probe only needed seven months when launched in 2003. Once it arrives, ExoMars will not be looking for signs of water on the Red Planet, instead it will search for bacterial life by analyzing soil samples. It is also equipped with a drill allowing ExoMars to take samples up to two meters underground. Its laser will be able to vaporize rocks in its path; the minerals will then be analyzed. Nevertheless, one very important question still remains: how to ensure the transmission of the data gathered and the reception of any incoming orders? For budgetary reasons ExoMars will not be able to be launched with its own "orbiter", a satellite launched along with the probe which separates as it approaches the planet and acts as a relay for the information transmitted. It may be necessary to buy this service from the United States. However, it may still be possible to finance a small European orbiter with the extra money awarded to the program during the ESA Ministerial Council. [Le Monde 12/26/05]

** 6: IN BRIEF

Alcatel Alenia Space Toulouse recently delivered the payload for the future Galaxy 17 telecommunications satellite, which is set to be launched next September from Kourou in French Guiana for the American operator PanAmSat. The payload will now travel to Cannes, France where it will be integrated on the Spacebus platform. This is the 50th Spacebus satellite that Alcatel Alenia Space has constructed. [La Gazette du Midi 12/19/2005]


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, Noëlle Miliard

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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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