France in Space

Status Report From: Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES)
Posted: Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Using data derived from the COSMOS survey, the largest survey of the Universe created by the Hubble Space Telescope, an international team of astronomers has plotted the first 3-dimensional map of the distribution of dark matter in the Universe. Hailed as one of the most important cosmological breakthroughs in recent history, the new map confirms standard theories of structure formation. The map was charted out by an international team of astronomers led by Richard Masey of Caltech and including French astronomers from the Laboratory of Astrophysics in Marseille and the Paris Institute of Astrophysics. Using the Cosmos survey (which covered an area nine times the area of the full Moon) as a base, the astronomers combined it with spectra from the European Southern Observatory's VLT (Very Large Telescope) as well as multicolor images from the Japanese Subaru and Canada-France-Hawaii telescopes. The new map provides the best evidence to date that normal matter, mainly in the form of galaxies, accumulates along the densest concentrations of dark matter. Mapping the distribution of dark matter in space and time is fundamental to understanding how galaxies grew and clustered over billions of years. Examining the growth of clustering in dark matter may also one day shed light on dark energy, a force which repels matter rather than attract it, as gravity does. [ESA 01/07/07]


Snecma announced the signature of a contract with the European Space Agency concerning the Vinci engine demonstration program on December 22, 2006. The contract, part of ESA's Future Launcher Preparatory Program (FLPP), deals with a new phase in the cryogenic engine's design, production and testing, especially in regards to the initial long duration and re-ignition tests which are taking place at the DLR's facility in Lampoldshausen, Germany. The Vinci cryogenic engine, conceived to one-day replace the Ariane 5's current upper-stage engine, will allow the Ariane 5 ECA to boost its payload capacity to 12,000 kg, an increase of 2,000 kg. The engine would also be capable of multiple ignitions, meaning that an Ariane 5 would be able to place satellites in different orbits during a single mission and will include an extendible nozzle made of a composite material. Snecma is industrial prime contractor for the Vinci engine program, which also includes a number of European partners such as Astrium GmbH of Germany, Avio of Italy, Volvo Aero of Sweden and fellow SAFRAN Group company Techspace Aero of Belgium. [Snecma 12/22/06, Space News 01/08/07]


At the extraordinary general Shareholders Meeting held January 5th, 2007, Thales shareholders approved, by an overwhelming majority (97%), the resolutions relative to the contribution of Alcatel-Lucent's transportation and security activities to Thales. This concludes the first phase of the major external growth operation undertaken by Thales according to the agreement signed with Alcatel-Lucent in December 2006. A second phase, regarding the acquisition in cash of Alcatel-Lucent's space activities should be finalized during the first half of 2007; this transaction remains, nonetheless, subject to approval by the European Commission. The new Thales will have three main areas of expertise: defense (50%), aeronautics and space (25%) and systems and services activities (25%). [Thales 01/05/07, Les Echos 01/08/07]


Jean-Yves Le Gall, CEO of Arianespace, announced in a press conference this Monday, January 8th, 2007, that Arianespace had signed a contract with ProtoStar Ltd for the launch of their ProtoStar 1 satellite. ProtoStar 1 is based on the Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) 1300 platform and will be the 34th SS/L platform to be launched by Arianespace. The spacecraft will be equipped with 22 Ku-band and 38 C-band transponders and will provide digital DTH services, HDTV and Broadband internet to certain underserved areas in Asia. ProtoStar 1 is scheduled to be launched in the first half of 2008. This is the 280th launch contract attributed to Arianespace since its creation in March 1980. [Arianespace 01/08/07]


The first SAR-Lupe satellite, part of Germany's satellite-based reconnaissance system, was successfully launched on December 19th, carrying aboard Sensor Electronic Units for the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) supplied by Alcatel Alenia Space. The Sensor Electronic Units are the core of the SAR which will provide high-resolution radar imagery to the German defense forces commencing in 2007. Alcatel Alenia Space was responsible for the design and development of the Sensor Electronic Units, consisting of radiofrequency, processing and control sub-units. In the future, the ground segments for SAR-Lupe and the French Helios II systems will be interconnected so that each country can use the other's satellite and receive imagery. [Alcatel-Lucent 12/19/06]

** 6: IN BRIEF

France has passed a new law which sets a 20-year limit on operating licenses for satellites. The law, Article R.52-3-12, was approved in August 2006 but went unnoticed until December when companies purchasing stakes in the satellite operator Eutelsat Communications told investors of the new rule. The law requires that operators requesting renewal signal their intentions to France's National Frequencies Agency (ANF) at least three years in advance. Renewals will be treated just as first-time applications are, meaning that there will be no guarantee of continued access to a location after 20 years. [Space News 01/08/07]

CNES is poised to publish online its archive of 1,600 UFO sightings and incidents as early as late January or mid-February 2007. The agency has been collecting statements and documents for almost 30 years to archive and study them. The names of those who reported sightings will, of course, not be divulged on the site. [Time 01/15/07, Reuters 12/29/06]


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, Noëlle Miliard and Timothée Verwaerde

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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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