Status Report

France in Space #225

By SpaceRef Editor
January 22, 2003
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The future of CNES (French Space Agency) as well as of the European space
sector, is the subject of much talk. The French government’s subsidy has
been going down continuously since 1997 while at the same time CNES was
launching new national programs (Mars Premier, Pleiades, Alphabus,
minisatellites of the Proteus family, and of the Myriades family…). Until
now now half of the French space budget was dedicated to CNES while the
other half went to ESA. However, the national part is increasing (667
million Euros for CNES and 640 million Euros for ESA). Moreover the role of
the CST (Toulouse Space Center) will have to be redefined in relation to
ESTEC and ESA. Finally, the question remains whether the Space issue is
being handled at the appropriate political level, given that nowadays it has
become highly strategic. Indeed the army uses space-based communication,
intelligence and positioning systems of troops, and even space-based guiding
systems (missiles, UAV). Europe’s space ambitions are incompatible with the
current system i.e. a European agency with no real common policy and a space
budget 6 times below that of the United-States. [Air et Cosmos 01/01/2003]


Space industry and government leaders are moving to reinforce Europe’s
capabilities in EHF and SHF (super high frequency) technology to meet a
rapidly growing demand for highly secure miltary satellite
telecommunication. For example, three satellites links are now needed to
support a single Global Hawk mission (Unmanned aircraft vehicle) over
Afghanistan. Europe is far behind America on military communication. The
only EHF payloads currently planned are France’s Syracuse 3 and Italy’s
Sicral. The UK prefers to rely on the US. This technology is however very
expensive to develop, which last month led the UK, France and Italy to
submit a joint bid for the SHF/UHF segment of the Satcom NATO Post-2000
system, due to begin operation in 2005. This NATO satcom would be a
wonderful opportunity to bridge the gap in secure transmissions. [AFP Press Release 12/23/2002 and ESA Press Release 12/23/3002]


This year, Arianespace was to launch 3 Ariane-5 Baseline versions and 3
Ariane-5 ECA. However, given last December’s failure due to the
modifications of the cooling system of the Vulcain 2 new tubes, built by
Volvo Aero, the next launch of an Ariane-5 ECA could very well be a test
flight, with no commercial payload.
Arianespace General Director, Jean-Yves Le Gall, however, declared that the
Ariane-5 ” 10-tons ” version could fly again in 6 months. In 2003, the
satellites to be launched do not require the use of a ECA version, but by
the end of 2004, this version will be absolutely necessary, especially for
the ATV launch (Automated Transfer Vehicle), a European cargo vehicle which
will supply the ISS. [AFP Press Release 01/08/2003, La Tribune 01/13/2003]


The European Space Agency (ESA) March Council, as well as the April 2003
signature of the agreement with Russia should give the green light to the
launch of the Soyuz rocket from the Kourou Space center, French Guyana. The
construction of the launch pad should start in May. The Soyuz launcher (also
called Zemiorka), an offspring of the R-7 ballistic missile, is the most
used as well as the most reliable launcher in the world with some 1700
launches of satellites or manned flights since the first Spoutnik was put
into orbit in 1957 and since the first man, Youri Gagarine, was sent into
space in 1961. Since 1996, the Franco-Russian company, Starsem has been
marketing the Soyuz launcher. [AFP Press Release 01/10/2003; Le Figaro du 01/11/2003]


The failure of the last Ariane 5 launch is weighing even more heavily on the
future prospects of a sector already experiencing a downturn. In addition to
industrial overcapacities for satellite manufacturers, the future of
Eutelsat and Inmarsat is now uncertain. Moreover, operators are cancelling
orders to reduce expenses, overlooking the longer term and investments in
networks. Intelsat has also cancelled one of the two orders with Astrium and
did not confirm the 5 options, while PanAm Sat has changed its mind about a
Galaxy satellite, which is currently building Boeing. The loss of satellites
during launch appears to be regretful onlt to insurance companies. It seems
as if decision-makers are focusing on restructuring, a process which started
last year with the inception of SES Global and the privatization of Intelsat
and which is far from being over. Eutelsat is facing the withdrawal of its
three main shareholders, namely Deutsche Telekom, British Telecom and France
Telecom. As for Inmarsat, the world mobile phone operator, it is also facing
similar problems. [Reseaux 01/2003]


EADS should be reaching a 1.4 billion Euro-operating total result in 2002,
which will be in line with its objectives. The European company’s turnover
amounts to 30.8 billion Euros. Space activities have plummeted by 101
million Euros between January and September 2002. [Les Echos 01/08/2003]
Arianespace and the European Space Agency have decided to postpone the
launch of Rosetta. The European probe will not be launched as planned in
January. The partners have now to define the conditions for launch as soon
as possible. [Arianespace Press Release 01/14/2003] [From AFP Press Release, Air et Cosmos, Arianespace Press Release, ESA Press
Release, Le Figaro, Reseaux, La Tribune ]

SpaceRef staff editor.