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France in Space #334

Status Report From: Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES)
Posted: Sunday, April 16, 2006

** 1: VENUS EXPRESS SUCCESSFULLY ENTERS PLANET'S ORBIT

Yesterday, at 8:08 am GMT, ESA's Venus Express space probe successfully entered Venus' orbit after a journey of 400 million kilometers and almost five months. As the spacecraft approached the "Hothouse Planet" it fired its engines for a 50-minute burn, allowing it to slow its velocity and thus be captured by the planet's gravitational field. ESA's mission control in Darmstadt, Germany, deemed the insertion procedure a complete success. Over the next four weeks the Venus Express probe will undertake a series of maneuvers in order to reach its ideal operational orbit for its scientific mission; it has begun slowly moving itself into a 24-hour polar orbit. From this position the probe will carry out an in-depth observation of the structure, chemistry and dynamics of Venus' atmosphere. The mission will last two Venusian days or 486 Earth days. The analysis should help scientists understand Earth's climate change. Venus Express, developed for ESA by a European industrial team led by EADS Astrium, was launched November 9th, 2005, by a Soyuz-Fregat from Baikonur. [ESA 04/11/06; Agence France Presse 04/11/06; Le Figaro 04/12/06]

** 2: EUROPE AND THE UNITED STATES SIGN AGREEMENT FOR JASON-2 MISSION

CNES, EUMETSAT, NASA and NOAA (National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration) signed a cooperation agreement this Tuesday for a second generation Ocean Surface Topography Mission, scheduled for launch in 2008. The new satellite, named OSTM (Ocean Surface Topography Mission), will have a 3- to 5-year lifespan, and will extend the ocean topography measurements collected by the TOPEX/Poseidon mission from 1992 to 2005 and the Jason-1 spacecraft since 2001 (both missions were Franco-American collaborations). The four organizations will be in charge of the design, development, launch and operations of the new satellite. The data collected from Jason-2 and the previous missions should increase our understanding of ocean circulation and improve climate forecasts and measurements of global sea-level change. NASA will be supplying several of the spacecraft's science instruments, such as an advanced microwave radiometer, laser retroreflector array and GPS (Global Positioning System) payload receiver package. NASA will also provide the launch services onboard a Boeing Delta II rocket. CNES will provide a PROTEUS platform and payload module, as well as instruments including a Poseidon-3 dual-frequency altimeter, among others. EUMETSAT and NOAA will handle receiving and processing the data. [CNES 04/11/06; NASA 04/11/06; Agence France Presse 04/12/06]

** 3: ESA TO CONSIDER PROPOSAL FOR LIFE-EXTENDING SPACE TUG

ESA is expected to hear a proposal this summer to co-finance the development of a space tug that could provide life-extending fuel to telecommunications spacecraft already in orbit. After three years of development, Dutch Space and its European partners are seeking further aid in development if the ConeXpress spacecraft is to get off the ground. Dutch Space, recently acquired by EADS Space Transportation, and its partners are seeking roughly $97 million from ESA; the industrial team and Orbital Recovery Ltd of Britain, ConeXpress' marketing manager, would be in charge of finding a matching sum. With $194 million the industrial team believes that they can complete the design, production and launch the first ConeXpress module, which may be possible in 2009 aboard an Ariane 5. The ConeXpress hardware is based on the existing Ariane 5 payload adaptor; it separates from the rocket, extends its solar arrays and switches on its electric-propulsion system. Using an electric-propulsion system it climbs to geostationary orbit where it attaches itself to the target satellite. ConeXpress would provide an additional 10 to 12 years to an aging spacecraft by keeping it in its proper orbit. It would also be capable of placing the satellite into a graveyard orbit at the end of its lifespan and then return to aid another aging satellite. [Space News 04/10/06]

** 4: ARIANESPACE SIGNS CONTRACT WITH MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC FOR SUPERBIRD 7 LAUNCH

Arianespace announced Monday that it has signed a contract with the Japanese company Mitsubishi Electric for the launch of the commercial telecommunications satellite Superbird 7 in early 2008 from Kourou, French Guiana. Superbird 7 will be the first commercial satellite built by Mitsubishi Electric for the Japan-based Space Communications Corporation (SCC). This will be the first commercial satellite based on the DS2000 platform launched by an Ariane 5. Superbird 7 will replace Superbird C currently in orbit and will carry on board 28 Ku-band transponders (used in particular for television communications). [Ouest France 04/10/06; Agence France Presse 04/10/06]

** 5: ARIANE 5 EQUIPPED WITH POWERFUL ESC-A UPPER STAGE FOR FIRST COMMERCIAL FLIGHT

The Ariane 5 heavy-lift launch vehicle has been outfitted with an increased performance ESC-A upper stage, produced by EADS Space Transportation, in preparation for the rocket's scheduled launch of the Satmex 6 and THAICOM 5 communications satellites. The launch is currently set for mid-May from Kourou, French Guiana. The new upper stage will be powered by the same 6.5 metric ton HM-7B engine (built by SNECMA Moteurs) as Ariane 4's third stage and will enable the Ariane 5 to place 10,000 kilograms into the required geostationary transfer orbits of the dual-payload mission. [Arianespace 04/04/06]

** 6: CEGELEC SIGNS NEW COOPERATION AGREEMENT WITH ARIANESPACE

The French electrical engineering company Cegelec has signed a new cooperation agreement with Arianespace for work done at the Ariane launch site in Kourou, French Guiana. According to the new agreement, Cegelec will continue its operations and systems maintenance activities at the Guiana Space Center for the next 6 years (until 2011). Cooperation between the two companies dates back to 1980. Currently, Cegelec employs 120 people in Kourou and is also in charge of operation and maintenance of ground facilities for satellites for CNES in Kourou. [Agence France Presse 04/11/06]

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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