Status Report

France in Space #257

By SpaceRef Editor
February 13, 2004
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From January to March 2004, CNES will be conducting the HIBISCUS mission
from Bauru, Brazil. Stratospheric balloons will gather data from the
tropopause and the stratosphere over several weeks to help scientists in
their studies on the chemistry of the ozone. Onboard the balloons are
numerous automated instruments that allow scientists to perform live
observations of the troposphere and stratosphere. A total of 16 flights are
planned to take place. The European TROCCINOX program and the Brazilian
TROCCIBRAS program are being conducted in parallel with the French mission.
Data from each program will be compared and jointly analyzed. The HIBISCUS
mission is organized by CNES in collaboration with the “Service d’Aeronomie”
(IPSL-CNRS) and the Brazilian Institute for Meteorological Research (IPMET)
on a cooperation agreement between CNRS and the Sao Paolo State University
(UNESP). [CNES 02/06/2004]


EADS Space has been awarded a €900k study by ESA to carry out the first
definition of a Rover to explore the Martian surface and search for life.
The study is part of ESA’s Aurora programme that aims to put a European
astronaut on Mars. The ExoMars Rover is the next step in the exploration of
the red planet and will enable European scientists to build up a bigger
picture of the Martian environment as the rover travels up to many
kilometres over the surface. Russian technologies will be used in designing
and building a Mars rover, an ESA official said. In his words, the European
Aurora project calls for cooperation with two Russian organisations – the
Babakin Research Centre, and the Lavochkin Research and Production
Association. These organisations have rich experience of building
interplanetary spacecraft and the ESA wants to use their expertise for
designing the technical part of the Mars rover. Sampling the environment at
many different sites is not only important in searching for the signs of
life, but is the first step in taking humans to Mars. Before humans are able
to step out onto the Martian surface it is vital that scientists have built
up a complete picture of the planet and understand the atmosphere, the
surface and sub-surface structure in detail. The best way to do this is with
a robotic mission that can investigate Mars over a wide area. Once member
nations of ESA have agreed their contributions towards its implementation,
the ExoMars mission could launch as early as 2009. EADS Astrium activities
cover complete civil and military telecommunications and Earth observation
systems, science and navigation programmes, and all spacecraft avionics and
equipment. EADS Astrium is wholly owned by EADS SPACE. In 2002 EADS SPACE
had a turnover of €2.2 billion and 12,300 employees in France, Germany, the
United Kingdom and Spain. [ESA 01/26/2004, EADS Astrium 02/03/2004]


The well-known extrasolar planet HD 209458b, provisionally nicknamed Osiris,
has surprised astronomers again. An international team has for the first
time detected oxygen and carbon in the atmosphere of a planet beyond our
solar system. Hydrogen gas flowing out from the planet at near-sonic speed
is dragging heavier oxygen and carbon up from the lower atmosphere like dust
in a whirlwind. Osiris is already an extrasolar planet with an astounding
list of firsts: the first extrasolar planet discovered transiting its sun,
the first with an atmosphere, the first observed to have an evaporating
hydrogen atmosphere and now the first to have an atmosphere containing
oxygen and carbon. The planet is a hot Jupiter-like planet 150 light years
away, orbiting star HD 209458 in the Pegasus constellation. The scorched
Osiris orbits ‘only’ 7 million kilometres from its yellow Sun-like star and
its surface is heated to about 1,000 degrees Celsius. Astronomers led by
Alfred Vidal-Madjar of the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris, CNRS, France,
used the Hubble Space Telescope for observations of the planet in October
and November 2003. They used Hubble’s sensitive ultraviolet spectrograph to
probe the structure and chemical make-up of the planet’s atmosphere during
the transits. Such observations can only be made from space because Earth’s
ozone layer filters out UV light. French team member Alain Lecavelier des
Etangs found that the planet is so close to its star that the combined
gravity fields of the star and the planet shape its upper atmosphere into
the form of a rugby ball, allowing even more gas to escape. Vidal-Madjar is
among those who speculate that early Venus, Earth, and perhaps Mars lost
their original atmospheres this way. The Hubble Space Telescope is jointly
operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the
European Space Agency. [University of Arizona, ESA 02/02/2004]


Over the next few weeks, scientists on the joint ESA-NASA Ulysses mission
will be turning their attention away from the Sun, and looking at Jupiter
instead. In early February, the European-built Ulysses spacecraft will
approach the giant planet for a second time. The first encounter, 12 years
ago almost to the day, had dramatic consequences for the 350 kg space probe.
Like a giant slingshot, Jupiter’s immense gravity field propelled Ulysses
out of the ecliptic plane, sending it on its way to fly over the poles of
the Sun. February’s rendezvous will be much more benign, however. The
closest distance between spacecraft and planet will be some 280 times
greater than in 1992, so that the orbit of Ulysses will not be changed.
Nevertheless, the encounter geometry will enable the scientists to study
Jupiter’s natural radio emission, since a distinctive type of radio signal
is believed to originate in the high-latitude auroral zones of Jupiter.
Another Jupiter-related investigation is concentrating on a search for
streams of dust particles coming from the direction of the planet. The dust
grains are believed to originate from Jupiter’s volcanic moon, Io.
Electromagnetic forces within Jupiter’s magnetosphere then propel the
particles out of the Jovian system and into interplanetary space, where they
appear as streams of dust. The robustness of the spacecraft, coupled with
the mission’s great success, has allowed Ulysses to operate long past the
originally foreseen 5-year lifetime. NASA’s Deep Space Network is scheduled
to track the spacecraft 24 hours per day between now and mid-March so that
the science teams won’t have to miss any of the exciting data from Ulysses’
second rendezvous with Jupiter. [ESA 01/29/2004]


Rosetta’s lander has finally been named. A European jury singled out
“Philae” from national shortlists. ESA’s Rosetta probe (orbiter plus lander)
will be launched by Ariane 5 on 26 February 2004 but will take ten years to
reach the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The orbiter will initially map and
closely observe the comet nucleus before jettisoning the Philae lander, a
first in space history. The competition to name the lander, which ran from
December 2003 to January this year, addressed young people aged 12 to 25 in
those countries contributing to lander development. A national jury from
each country shortlisted names in early January then the European jury
selected Philae from the national lists. The name was suggested by Serena
Olga Vismara, a 15-year-old Italian living in the village of Arluno near
Milan. The Philae obelisk was discovered in 1815, some 16 years after French
soldiers found the famous Rosetta stone. The obelisk is inscribed in both
Greek and hieroglyphs, and it was by combining both parts of this puzzle
that Frenchman Jean-François Champollion, an expert in Egyptian history,
managed to read the hieroglyphs and thus improve our knowledge of Egyptian
civilization. On the same theme, the Rosetta orbiter and Philae lander
should expand current knowledge of comets and shed more light on how the
solar system was formed. [CNES 02/05/2004]

** 6: IN BRIEF

Three consortia have been short-listed to bid for the future concession of
the European Union’s planned multi-billion euro Galileo satellite navigation
system: the Eutelsat consortium, consisting of Hispasat, LogicaCMG and AENA,
the Inavsat consortium made up of Inmarsat Ventures, EADS Space and Thales,
and a consortium of Vinci Concessions, Alcatel Participations and
Finmeccanica. [European Union 02/06/2004] The European Space Agency approved
the funding program for European space exploration projects and commercial
launches. ESA allocations for the Soyuz-Kourou project will amount to 344
million euro. Allocations for the European space program – “Europe’s
Guaranteed Access to Space” — amounted to 960 million euro. France carries
the bulk of expenses (55%), followed by Germany (17.8%), Italy (9.6%), and
Britain (0.3%). Taking part in financing the Soyuz-Kourou project are
France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. The funding is worth
344 million euro, including 121 million euro to be provided by Arianespace.
[ESA 02/06/2004] On 6 February, while Mars Express was flying over the area
that Spirit is examining, the orbiter transferred commands from Earth to the
rover and relayed data from the rover back to Earth. ESA and NASA planned
this demonstration as part of continuing efforts to cooperate in space. [ESA
02/12/2004] After three years of losses, EADS space business unit will
breakeven in 2004 and should even post a profit. During that period, EADS
Space has reduced its workforce by more than 30%. However a persisting weak
dollar could endanger the space business unit recovery. [La Tribune
02/10/2004] Alcatel Space and Alenia Spazio has signed an agreement to
discuss about merging their satellite activities. [La Tribune 02/10/2004]

[From CNES, EADS Astrium, ESA, European Union, University of Arizona, La

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: Vincent Sabathier, Thibaut Girard, Valery Tessier-Leon

France In Space is available online at
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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

SpaceRef staff editor.