Status Report

France in Space #272

By SpaceRef Editor
November 22, 2004
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Arianespace announced that the Ariane 5 ECA version flight, initially scheduled in November, has been delayed until January 2005. This version will be able to launch 10 tons in geostationary orbit, while the standard-version Ariane 5 can launch a 6-tons payload. The launch preparation campaign, which began in August, is not completely finished. Its two objectives were, first, a re-qualification of Vulcain2 first-stage engine, and second, a launcher exhaustive review. As two preparation campaigns were conducting in the same time, it has been finally decided to launch first the standard-version Ariane 5 on December 10. This mission will launch the French government’s Helios 2A reconnaissance satellite and two micro-satellites: Essaim, developed for French military applications, and Parasol, developed by CNES for scientific applications. [CNES 11/19/2004, Les Echos 11/19/2004]


ESA’s SMART-1 spacecraft has successfully made its first orbit around the Moon this week, a significant milestone for the first of Europe’s Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology (SMART). A complex package of tests on new technologies was successfully performed during the cruise to the Moon, while the spacecraft was getting ready for the scientific investigations, which will come next. On 15 November, SMART-1’s solar-electric plasma propulsion system was ignited and is still working for the delicate operation that will stabilize the spacecraft in lunar orbit, at an altitude of about 5000 kilometers (3100 miles) to the lunar surface. During this crucial phase, the engine runs almost continuously for four days, and then for a series of shorter burns, allowing SMART-1 to reach its final operational orbit by making ever-decreasing loops around the Moon. By about mid-January, SMART-1 will be orbiting the Moon at altitudes between 300 kilometers (186 miles) over the lunar South Pole and 3000 kilometers (1860 miles) over the lunar North Pole, beginning its scientific observations. The main purpose of the first part of the SMART-1 mission, concluding with the arrival at the Moon, was to demonstrate new spacecraft technologies. Among others, a solar-electric propulsion system was tested over a long spiraling trip to the Moon of more than 84 million kilometers, a distance comparable to an interplanetary cruise. This system also performed gravity-assist manoeuvres, which use the gravitational pull of the approaching Moon. The success of this test is important to the prospects for future interplanetary missions using ion engines. [ESA 11/16/2004]


Boeing Satellite Systems (BSS) has signed a long-term agreement with Alcatel Space under which the French firm will be Boeing’s preferred supplier for satellite electronic payloads. In the first application of this partnership, BBS will use unspecified Alcatel-built subsystems on the three direct-broadcast television satellites it is building for DirecTV Group. BBS and Alcatel Space, specifically its Toulouse, France, satellite-electronics unit, have already cooperated in the past. A notable example is the XM Satellite Radio Spacecraft, for which Alcatel Space built the payload electronics (cf France in Space #248 Article 5). From an overall point of view, this agreement is one of many changes BBS is making to adapt to the current commercial market, which is insufficient to sustain all the suppliers operating at full capacity. Therefore, the satellite maker reduces its in-house production to focus on core competencies. BBS is currently under pressure from Boeing corporate management to reduce its losses and become profitable by 2005. [Space News 11/15/2004]


Galileo is going to be a key topic during the next European Transport Council meeting in December, but critical issues still need to be addressed. The EU’s ministries of transportation, who are funding Galileo alongside with European ministries of research via ESA, are expected to determine the funding levels for the program between 2007 and 2013. The European Commission has proposed allocating 1 billion euros (1.29 billion dollars), while industry officials are arguing that a more realistic envelope would be around 1.23 billion euros, including 300 million euros for the Galileo’s encrypted Public Regulated Service (PRS). This service is intended for use for homeland security and emergency-services such as ambulances and fire fighters. But the British Minister of Transportation David Jamieson said that the UK would veto any authorization for military use of Galileo, especially of the PRS, that UK does not plan to use or pay for. Yet, some EU-member states, such as France, have made it clear that they consider the scope of PRS to include security applications, along the lines of the U.S. operated GPS constellation. French defense officials have outlined that they would treat Galileo PRS with the same care that the U.S. Defense Department takes with the GPS signals. Just as the Defense Department-funded GPS has given birth to a billion-dollar business in commercial applications, so Galileo was meant for being used by Europe’s defense forces. But one of the problems is that European forces are not fully involved in Galileo’s funding bases. [Aviation Week & Technology 11/15/2004, Space News 11/15/2004] 


EADS is considering a takeover of French military systems company Thales, a move that would create a European aerospace and electronics group with annual sales of 40 billion euros (51.6 billion dollars), French business daily Les Echos reported, without naming sources. French and German governments, which each own about 30 percent of EADS, would appear ready to approve the operation. In the wake of a takeover, EADS would possibly sell off Thales’communication division to Alcatel, its airborne systems unit to Dassault and perhaps divest the naval business. This acquisition would bolster EADS’defense side, particularly its system business, giving the company a range of platforms and system capabilities to deploy against U.S. rival Boeing. However, a French Finance Ministry spokesman dismissed the report as “rumor”. Thales Chief Executive Denis Rauque has sought to calm speculation and has consistently argued that the company is strong enough to stay independent. [Les Echos 11/12/2004, La Tribune 11/10/2004, Defense News 11/15/2004]


Ministers in charge of space affairs and those responsible for the internal market, industry and research meet in Brussels on November 25 for the first “Space Council”, a joint meeting of the ESA Council at ministerial level and of the EU Competitiveness Council. These  “Space Council” meetings have been set up for coordinating and facilitating cooperative activities between the European Community and ESA through their Framework Agreement which was adopted in 2003 and entered into force in May this year.  The Framework Agreement has two main aims: the first one is the coherent and progressive development of an overall European space policy, the second is to establish a common basis and appropriate practical arrangements for efficient and mutually beneficial cooperation between ESA and the European Community. [ESA 11/18/2004]

** 7: IN BRIEF

ESA has started a 41 million euro (53.1 million dollars] study intended to improve methods for producing high performances alloys. This project will examine the link between the process of combining different metals to produce the alloys and the final mechanical, chemical and physical properties of the alloy. The work will focus on gas turbine blades used for power generation and engine applications. Experiments will be performed abroad the International Space Station and other platforms.[Space News 11/15/2004]

[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

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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”.


SpaceRef staff editor.