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France in Space #331

Status Report From: Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES)
Posted: Wednesday, March 22, 2006

** 1: METOP SATELLITE FINISHES TESTING PHASE, READY FOR DELIVERY TO BAIKONUR

The meteorological satellite MetOp, the first in a series of three spacecraft designed to ameliorate weather forecasting and the monitoring of global climate change, has completed its finals tests. According to EADS Astrium, who carried out the tests, the satellite should be shipped April 18th to Baikonur where it is scheduled to be launched June 30th aboard a Soyuz rocket. MetOp is one of the most sophisticated observational satellites ever built in Europe. Its total cost is estimated at 2.4 billion euros, with Eumetsat paying 1.8 billion and ESA, the rest. Twelve instruments have been integrated on board the 4085 kilogram satellite which will allow it to completely cover meteorological conditions around the globe, especially higher latitudes where data is currently hard to get. In addition, a cooperative agreement with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) will allow for the exchange of data between the MetOp satellites and their American counterparts, like the NOAA 18 spacecraft, in orbit since May 2005. The launch of the next MetOp satellite, although already built, will not be until sometime in 2011. [Agence France Presse 03/21/06, Le Figaro 03/22/06]

** 2: COMPETITION HEATS UP BETWEEN EADS ASTRIUM AND SSTL

The competition between Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) and EADS Astrium, in the field of small, light-weight and low-cost satellites, is heating up. Responding to claims made by Sir Martin Sweeting, chief executive of SSTL, EADS Astrium denied that they are selling satellites at below cost in order to enter the small-spacecraft Earth observation market. This market had been largely dominated by SSTL until EADS Astrium began producing the Myriade satellite frame developed by CNES. Six Myriade-based spacecraft have been launched since 2004, with four being built by EADS Astrium (four Essaim electronic eaves-dropping satellites for the DGA, French Arms Procurement Agency). Several more have been ordered from the company by the DGA. The debate between SSTL and EADS Astrium fired-up when the Algerian government selected the latter to build two high-resolution, light-weight satellites. Still, SSTL believes that a large company such as EADS Astrium will not have staying power in the small-satellite market because its cost basis is necessarily higher than that of a business like SSTL which is affiliated with and 80% owned by the University of Surrey. EADS Astrium on the other hand, believes that it will be able to carve out a long term niche in the market due to its ability to reduce unit costs with each new order. [Space News 03/20/06]

** 3: ESA AND CNES SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT FOR ALPHABUS

ESA and CNES agreed last Thursday to work collectively on the development of Alphabus, Europe's next-generation platform for high-end telecommunication satellites. The agreement follows the signature last June of a contract between EADS Astrium and Alcatel Alenia Space to begin the program and manufacture a ready-for flight prototype by 2009. The new accord stipulates that CNES will manage the development of the new platform line and that ESA will co-finance it. Consequently, ESA will be the first client for Alphabus. The Alphabus platform will be designed to carry satellites with a lift-off mass between six and eight tons and will be constructed with the Ariane 5, and its 5 meter in diameter fairing, in mind. ESA will also begin developing its new Alphasat in parallel to the Alphabus program in hopes of a launch of the first configuration in 2010.

** 4: ALCATEL ALENIA SPACE TO PROVIDE RADAR SYSTEM FOR KOMPSAT-5 SATELLITE

The Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and the Republic of South Korea Space Agency have awarded Alcatel Alenia Space a contract to provide a SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) payload system for KOMPSAT-5 Earth observation program. The goal of the KOMPSAT-5 program is to develop, launch and operate an Earth observation SAR satellite system for the monitoring and prevention of environmental disasters. The program began on July 1st, 2005 and it is expected that the first satellite will be launched at the end of 2008. Alcatel Alenia Space, acting as prime contractor, will provide the SAR radar for X-band multimode images, as well as the ground SAR image processor, calibration algorithms and equipment. [Alcatel Alenia Space 03/16/06]

** 5: CNES AND SNSB REINFORCE TIES WITH NEW COOPERATION ACCORD

After thirty years of solid cooperation in the space sector, CNES and the Swedish National Space Board (SNSB) formalized their collaboration with the signing of an accord March 14, 2005. This agreement follows a conference on Franco-Swedish cooperation held at the Swedish Embassy in Paris last December. The agreement recognizes CNES' and SNSB's commitment to working together in areas such as future launch vehicles and the Prisma satellite program to validate technologies for future in-orbit formation flying missions. In the past, the two agencies have worked together in fields such as assuring independent access to space for Europe, such as through the Ariane program, Earth observation with the Spot series of satellites and Space science with Sweden's ODIN aeronomy and astronomy satellite. [CNES 03/15/06]

** 6: CIEL SATELLITE ATTRIBUTES NEW CONTRACT TO ALCATEL ALENIA SPACE

Alcatel Alenia Space has been awarded a contract by Ciel Satellite of Canada to deliver the high-powered Ciel-2 telecommunications satellite. The amount of the contract has not yet been released. It is expected that the new spacecraft will be launched at the end of 2008 and is anticipated to be the largest Spacebus-class satellite ever built by Alcatel Alenia Space. The Ciel-2 satellite will be based on the Spacebus 4000 C4 platform and will be fitted with 32 Ku-band frequencies. The spacecraft should start delivering services to North America by the end of 2008 and will have a lifespan of sixteen years. [Alcatel Alenia Space 03/17/06, Les Echos 03/20/06]

** 7: EUROPEAN COMMISSION AND RUSSIA SIGN FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT FOR SPACE ACTIVITIES

The European Commission and Russia signed a framework agreement last Friday in Brussels aimed at reinforcing their cooperation in Space activities. Present at the signing were Günter Verheugen, Vice President of the European Commission, Anatoly Perminov, Director of Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos), and Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA. The goal of the agreement is to strengthen cooperation in several domains, including satellite navigation, Earth observation, continued access to space and the operation of the International Space Station. Günter Verheugen declared that "increased cooperation with Russia in the Space sector will have very positive repercussions on the development of the European Space program." [Agence France Presse 03/11/06]

** 8: IN BRIEF

Thanks to the successful launch of the Ariane 5 ECA rocket March 11th, Arianespace is confident that they will be able to meet their goal of launching four or five more Ariane 5 vehicles by December 2006. The next launch is set for May and will carry the Satmex 6 and Thaicom 5 telecommunications satellites for Satmex of Mexico and Shin Satellite of Thailand. [Space News 03/20/06]

The launch of the second Galileo navigation system test satellite, Giove-B, originally set for April, has been postponed until the fall. The first test satellite, Giove-A (built by SSTL), has been in orbit since December 2005 and has already begun sending its signals; it is thus holding the frequency for the Galileo system and there is no rush to launch Giove-B. [Agence France Presse 03/20/06]

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

France In Space is available online at http://www.france-science.org/france-in-space. There you will find the current issue, subscription and un-subscription forms, as well as the archives with a search engine.

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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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