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France in Space #374

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

** 1: ESA'S MARS EXPRESS PROBES VAST QUANTITIES OF WATER AT MARS' SOUTH POLE

The Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) instrument aboard ESA's Mars Express is allowing scientists to make the most accurate measurements of the amount of water at the Mars' poles as of yet. In a study published in the March 15th edition of Science magazine, scientists announced that the MARSIS radar had detected such a vast quantity of frozen water at Mars' South Pole that, if it were to melt, it would cover the planet with an ocean of water eleven meters deep. MARSIS is able to map the thickness of the dusty ice which covers the Red Planet's North and South Poles, and so far has made more than 300 virtual slices through these layered deposits. It is these deposits at the poles which hold the most known water on Mars. Scientists now have a better understanding of the Martian subsurface composition and are hoping that this latest discovery will help them comprehend the history and fate of water on Mars. The MARSIS radar was developed jointly by ASI and NASA. [ESA 03/15/07, Agence France Presse 03/15/07, Le Figaro 03/16/07]

** 2: EUROPE'S ATV TO BEGIN QUALIFICATION PROCESS IN APRIL, LAUNCH DATE SLIPS

The development of ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) remains on track and will begin its four-month long qualification process in April. This process should help answer questions posed by NASA regarding ISS safety and the possibility of commercial ATV cargo supply. NASA has already conducted a safety-related ATV flight operations review in January which addressed issues such as possible in-flight ATV sensor failure scenarios. ESA engineers expect that the qualification process will resolve the majority of NASA's concerns. Qualification is expected to be completed by the end of July in time for what should have been the first of five planned ATV launches via Ariane 5, however the first launch has been delayed due to the rescheduling of NASA's Shuttle flights. The ATV's inaugural flight should now be in November 2007. In related news, the launch of Europe's Columbus science laboratory has also slipped due to NASA's revised Shuttle launch schedule. An exact date for the laboratory's launch has not been set but ESA officials are hoping to launch the ATV prior to Columbus in order to avoid having to make cash payments to NASA for Columbus overhead charges. The ATV is considered part of Europe's payment in exchange for ISS services paid for by NASA. [Flight International 03/20/07, Space News 03/19/07]

** 3: ENVISAT'S SCIAMACHY DATA PRODUCES 1ST ANIMATED GREENHOUSE GAS MAP

ESA scientists recently unveiled a new tool in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Using three years of observations and data from the SCIAMACHY (Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Cartography) instrument aboard ESA's Envisat Earth Observation satellite, scientists have created the first animated movies recreating the global distribution of carbon dioxide and methane, the two most important greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. The reduction of these gases is currently a very hot topic and these new animations now give us a means to monitor results. The SCIAMACY imaging spectrometer is the first instrument capable of measuring these gases, with high sensitivity, in the troposphere and in the stratosphere. These new maps are just the first step in understanding climate change and in helping mankind control the emission of these toxic gases. Other studies and results on greenhouse gases will be presented at the 2007 Envisat Symposium in Montreux, Switzerland, April 23-27, 2007.[ESA 03/20/07]

** 4: ARIANE 5 DESIGNERS EXAMINING USE OF FREGAT UPPER STAGE

Engineers for the Ariane 5 launcher are considering modifications to the rocket which would include the use of the Russian-built Fregat upper stage, currently used on Russia's Soyuz vehicle, for Ariane 5 missions requiring multiple restarts once in orbit. The Fregat upper stage could be used to launch part of the Galileo satellite navigation constellation, as it can be restarted up to twenty times in flight and has its own guidance and navigation system. ESA Member States have already agreed to fund research and early development of the Vinci motor, a re-startable upper stage for the Ariane 5, but it is unlikely that it will be completed and in service before the beginning of the next decade. [Space News 03/19/07]

** 5: ICESAR CAMPAIGN OFFERS GLIMPSE OF FUTURE SENTINEL-1 IMAGES OVER ICE

An airborne campaign designed to test technology and experiments that will one-day fly on ESA's Sentinel-1 satellite, developed in support of GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), is already yielding some surprising results. The IceSAR campaign over extreme northern Europe is allowing scientists and engineers simulate Sentinel-1 radar images over ice. The Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), which IceSAR carries and Sentinel-1 will carry on board when launched in 2011, is capable of producing high-resolution ice charts, monitoring icebergs and forecasting ice conditions. So far, the IceSAR campaign has shown that there is an unexpectedly lack of ice near Svalbard, an archipelago lying in the Arctic Ocean north of mainland Europe. Once launched, Sentinel-1 will offer a wealth of continuous data on the status of ice, especially sea ice, at the Poles. [ESA 03/20/07]

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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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