Status Report

France-in-Space #270

By SpaceRef Editor
November 8, 2004
Filed under , ,


European and American astronauts are part of the project management team of
the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), Europe’s cargo spaceship for the
International Space Station, and are supporting the development of the first
flight model called Jules Verne. Since 2001, French ESA astronaut
Jean-Fran-ois Clervoy, senior advisor to the ATV programme, and veteran NASA
astronaut Steven Smith – who is ATV Launch Package Manager for NASA – work
fulltime with the two dozen strong ATV management team at ESA’s office in
Les Mureaux, 50 km west of Paris, France. At NASA’s Johnson Space Centre, in
Houston, United States, three more astronauts – Barry Wilmore, Ron Garan and
Eric Boe – participate in the ATV project as NASA astronaut representatives
for ISS visiting vehicles. Although people will not be launched on board an
ATV, astronauts dressed in regular clothing, will be able to access cargo
and systems – for up to six months – whilst the spacecraft is docked to the
ISS. The dual challenge facing ATV is to fulfil both the demanding
requirements of human spacecraft safety, as well as the critical robotics
capabilities to perform automatic rendezvous and docking. NASA bears the
overall International Space Station integration and safety responsibility,
including ATV, even though the European re-supply spaceship docks to the
Russian side of ISS. At NASA more than one hundred people, mainly in
Houston, are in some way involved in the ATV programme, but many of them
dedicate nearly all their time to the ATV project. Although no Russian
cosmonaut is based in Europe, two space veterans Valeri Ryumin and Sergei
Krikalev are supporting the ATV programme. [ESA 10/29/2004]


The construction site for the ground segment of Vega, the small European
launcher, was opened at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana last
month. Vega is due to be launched at the end 2007 and will complement the
European mid-class Soyuz and heavy-class Ariane 5 launchers. The site was
formally inaugurated on 20 October by ESA together with CNES and the Italian
company Vitrociset, prime contractor for the ground segment. This is the
start of a new life for ELA1, the launch pad originally used for the Ariane
1, 15 years after its deactivation. The new launch pad (ZLV – Zone de
Lancement Vega) is being built on the ELA1 foundations. The site is due for
completion in April 2007, in time for Vega’s qualification flight at the end
of 2007. During the exploitation phase, from 2008, the Vega Launch Service
will be then operated by Arianespace. Almost thirty years have passed since
the initial launch pad, built in the late 60s for the Europa 2 launcher, was
modified into ELA1 to meet the requirements of the first Ariane launches.
Since then, two other ESA-funded launch pads, ELA2 and ELA3, have been built
to support the later Ariane launchers. Today, only ELA3 – dedicated to
Ariane 5 – remains in use. [ESA 11/02/2004]


When ESA’s Huygens probe plunges into the atmosphere of Saturn’s largest
moon, Titan, on 14 January 2005, telescopes on Earth will be watching the
remote planet. Observations of Titan from Earth will help to understand the
global condition of the atmosphere, while Huygens is passing through a tiny
section of it. As Huygens drifts down, its instruments and cameras will be
collecting vital information about the atmosphere and surface. The NASA
Cassini mothership will be listening, so that it can later transmit the
results to Earth but, while Cassini is pointing its high-gain antenna at
Huygens, it cannot watch Titan with its cameras. So telescopes on Earth will
try to do the job. The telescopes located around the Pacific Ocean will be
used because Titan will be in view from these areas at the time of the
Huygens descent. An observation from space, by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space
Telescope, is also planned. The most exciting possibility is that the
observations may show a tiny, bright speck at the moment Huygens enters the
atmosphere. This point of light will be the ‘fireball’, created by friction
as the probe’s heatshield hurtles through the denser parts of the moon’s
atmosphere and the spacecraft shoots across Titan’s sky like a giant meteor.
Although the chances of seeing the fireball are faint, the best location to
be looking from happens to coincide with the largest single telescope in the
world: the 10-metre Keck telescope. Situated at the summit of the dormant
volcano Mauna Kea, on Hawaii, Keck will be directly in line with Titan at
the moment of the Huygens descent. In addition to optical telescopes, a
string of radio telescopes across America, Australia, China and Japan will
team up to listen for the faint radio signal of Huygens itself. [ESA


After extensive testing of the Rosetta probe, engineers at the French Space
Agency (CNES) have detected the loss of a pressure sensor on the Rosetta
Lander Magnetometer and Plasma Monitor (ROMAP). Apparently the victim of a
short circuit, the sensor was intended to measure ambient pressure on the
comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko when Rosetta’s Philae lander sets down there
in November 2014. However, other functions on ROMAP, designed to
characterise magnetic and plasma fields around the landing site, checked out
without incident, as did all of the nine other experiments on the lander.
The tests, carried out in September-October, followed a flawless checkout of
orbiter instruments in April. The instruments will hibernate as Rosetta
begins a long series of gravitational manoeuvres, beginning with the first
three Earth flybys in March 2005, designed to send the probe on its comet of
rendezvous. [CNES 10/19/2004, Aviation Week & Space Technology 10/25/2004]


Senior Pentagon officials have warned Brussels that they will not hesitate
to blow European Union satellites out of the sky if they are used against
America by a hostile power. In an astonishing confrontation at a private
conference between the United States and the European Union (EU), European
delegates insisted they would not be prepared to turn off or jam signals
from their proposed Galileo navigation satellites, even if they were being
used in a war against the U.S. In response, the U.S. delegates replied that
they understood this and intended – if faced with such a threat – to take
whatever action they felt appropriate. The Pentagon position on Galileo is
confirmed in a U.S. Air Force doctrine document obtained by The Business,
issued on 2 August 2004. In a foreword, Peter Teets, under-secretary of the
U.S. Air Force, asks: “What will we do 10 years from now when American lives
are put at risk because an adversary chooses to leverage the global
positioning system of perhaps the Galileo constellation to attack American
forces with precision?” The U.S. would first try unilaterally to jam
Galileo’s signals, but if this failed it would use attack satellites to
destroy one or all of its units, in an unprecedented Star Wars-style raid.
Galileo is a joint EU-ESA initiative for a global navigation system. A
constellation of 30 satellites orbiting the Earth at an altitude of
23,300km, it is scheduled to be fully operational worldwide before the end
of this decade. [, AFP 10/24/2004]

** 6: IN BRIEF

Two of France’s biggest defense technology players plan to merge, creating
the world’s 14th-largest defence company. While some market analysts are
questioning the logic behind the combination, others say the move
strengthens French efforts in network-centric warfare. The 7.3 billion
dollars deal would draw together Europe’s largest aircraft engine makers,
Snecma, with Sagem, the electronics and telecommunications technology
company, creating a firm with annual sales of almost 10 billion euros (12.7
billion dollars). [Defense News 11/01/2004]

France’s Helios 1B imagery satellite, which provides military imaging to
France, Italy and Spain, has been deorbited following a power supply
failure. The French Defence Ministry noted that the spacecraft, which was
launched in December 1999, was only designed for a five-year lifetime, and
that full backup capability will be available from Helios 1A orbited in
1995. The first next-generation replacement, Helios 2A will be launched in
December 2004 aboard an Ariane 5G rocket (France in Space #268 Article 1).
[Le Figaro 10/26/2004, Aviation Week & Space Technology 10/25/2004]
Arianespace will conduct a second wet dress rehearsal of its
enhanced-version Ariane 5 rocket before deciding whether to launch the new
vehicle in December or wait until January, after the standard-version Ariane
5 launches the French government’s Helios 2A reconnaissance satellite.
[Space News 11/01/2004]

A high-ranking French defence ministry official said France could accept a
U.S.-led missile defence system that covers Europe only if U.S. authorities
agreed to share responsibility for defences operated from European ground.
President Bush’s proposal to NATO countries to extend a missile-defence
umbrella to Europe needs to take into account the fact that European
citizens would be at risk even in the event of a successful missile
intercept. [French Defence Ministry 11/01/2204]

The Superior council for Audiovisual of France (CSA) has agreed that CNES
applies to the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) for a licence for
its next-generation Agora satellite. CNES should ask for bandwidth between
21.4 and 22 GHz. Agora satellite is a geostationary satellite that will
provide broadband Internet access to the so-called European “white zone”,
where there is no terrestrial solution for high speed Internet. [La Lettre
du CSA 10/2004]

[From AFP, Air & Cosmos, Alcatel, Arianespace, Aviation Week & Space
Technology, Cercle Finance, CNES, EADS Astrium, EADS Space, ESA, Le Figaro,
Launch Services Alliance, La Lettre de l’Expansion, NASA, Reuters, Space
News,, La Tribune]

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, Thibaut Girard, Valery Tessier-Leon

France In Space is available online at you will find there the
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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.