France In Space #370

Status Report From: Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES)
Posted: Wednesday, February 21, 2007


On February 17th, a Delta II rocket made history as it lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying the five satellites of NASA's THEMIS (Time, History of Events and Macroscale Interactions in Substorms) satellite constellation. It marked the first time NASA has orbited as many satellites in one launch. The objective of the THEMIS mission is to find what triggers magnetic substorms, which can sometimes cause power grids and satellites to fail; it is this phenomenon that creates the colorful Aurora Borealis observed in the night sky. French laboratories played an important role in the design of the instruments carried on-board each THEMIS satellite. The CETP (Center for Studies on Earth and Planetary Environments) in Velizy-Villacoublay, France, and the CESR (Center for Studies on Space Radiation) in Toulouse, France, both participated in the mission. The CETP provided the magnetic antennas and the tri-axes structures, which were manufactured by GDTech of France. The CESR actively took part in the definition of the mission and will also have an important role in the analysis and the interpretation of all data. The THEMIS mission will last two years. [Le Monde 02/15/07, ESA 02/16/07, CNES 02/19/07]


In an agreement signed on February 15th by the Arianespace launch consortium and Astrium Space Transportation (Ariane 5 prime contractor), the two companies resolved to increase the production of Ariane 5 ECA rockets to seven vehicles per year, starting in February 2008. Both Jean-Yves Le Gall, Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace, and Evert Dudok, President of Astrium Space Transportation, were on hand for the signing which took place in Bremen, Germany. Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed. The accord also requires the Ariane production team to be able to produce one Ariane 5 per year in a version other than the standard ECA option. The Ariane 5 ECA is capable of launching two satellites of a combined weight of 9,000 kilograms into geostationary-transfer orbit. Other variations of the Ariane 5 have been designed to launch Europe's ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) to the ISS, or to include a re-ignitable upper stage for payloads such as Europe's Galileo satellite system. [Agence France Presse 02/15/07, Space News 02/19/07, Flight International 02/20/07]


Eutelsat Communications of Paris reported its first half 2006-2007 results (ending December 31st, 2006) on February 15th which reflected the satellite operator's continued growth and solid performance. The company reported an increase in revenues of 5.2%, to 415.3 million euros, driven in particular by Video Applications in emerging markets, i.e. Central Europe, Russia, Middle East, North and Sub-Saharan Africa. As of December 31st, the company's fleet of 23 satellites was 82.2% full. Given these results, Eutelsat is confident that for its fiscal year ending June 30th it will see revenues of more than 800 million euros. To accomplish this, the operator will continue to focus on video distribution, which is by far the most profitable business in satellite communications and accounts for 70% of Eutelsat's revenues. Eutelsat, the world's third largest commercial satellite fleet operator, now has a simplified shareholder structure where the company is 31.96% owned by the Spanish public-works builder Abertis, 26.15% held by CDC Infrastructure of France (a subsidiary of Caisse des Depots et Consignations), with the remaining 41.89% publicly traded on the Paris-based Euronext stock exchange. [Eutelsat 02/15/07, Space News 02/19/07]


In an official report released February 7th, the French Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Choices (OPECST) outlined its suggestions for the future of French and European space policy. The report, authored by Christian Cabal, Deputy from the Loire region, and Henri Revol, Senator from the Cote d'Or, comes in response to President George W. Bush's Vision for Space Exploration, as well as the rapid development of space technologies by China and India, among others. Major proposals in the report include: 1.) France should begin developing nuclear-powered satellites, in cooperation with the French Atomic Energy Commission and French industry, in order to allow deep-space exploration; 2.) the Ariane 5 ECA should be re-conformed so that it is able to launch humans within five years; 3.) sanctions should be imposed on any European nation that does not give preference to European launch vehicles for government civil and military satellites; 4.) France and other European governments should aid companies that propose the development of suborbital flight systems destined for a space-tourism industry; and 5.) NATO members should work towards harmonizing their existing military satellite telecommunications systems within two years. According to the report, space is a strategic asset and Europe cannot afford to lose ground to nations such as the United States, China, India and Russia. The report calls for more "audacity" in European space policy. [Agence France Presse 02/07/07, Le Monde 02/09/07, Space News 02/19/07]


ESA astronaut Leopold Eyharts of France was officially assigned to fly on Space Shuttle mission STS-122 as a member of the Expedition 16 crew. The launch, currently scheduled for fall 2007, will be an exciting and important one as the crew will be delivering and commissioning the European Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station (ISS). Eyharts will be accompanied aboard the Shuttle Discovery by five NASA crewmates and one other ESA astronaut, Hans Schlegel of Germany. Eyharts will remain on the ISS for two months, returning with the crew of STS-123 on the Shuttle Endeavor, while Schlegel will return to Earth after 14 days. Eyharts became a member of the European Astronaut Corps in 1998 and carried out his first space mission to the Russian space station Mir from January 29th to February 19th, 1998, as a CNES astronaut. The Columbus laboratory is Europe's most important contribution to the ISS and will be the first-ever European laboratory devoted to long-term research in space. [ESA 02/12/07, Agence France Presse 02/13/07]

** 6: IN BRIEF

The CNES-led COROT (COnvection, ROtation & Transits of extrasolar planets) Space Telescope, designed to probe into the interiors of stars and to search for extra-solar planets, has completed its in-orbit validation and as of February 3rd, 2007, has started its science mission. This first phase of observations will last until April 2nd, 2007, and then the spacecraft will be rotated 180* in order to target a different area of the sky. [Air & Cosmos 02/09/07, ESA 02/09/07]

The Russian parliament, the State Duma, ratified an agreement between Russia and France for the use of Soyuz-ST rockets at the Guiana Space Center on Friday, February 16th, 2007. The agreement on long-term cooperation in design, manufacture and use of the launchers was first signed by the two countries in November of 2003. The first launch of Soyuz-ST is scheduled for the end of 2008. [ITAR-TASS 02/16/07]


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, Noelle Miliard and Timothee 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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