Status Report

France in Space #273

By SpaceRef Editor
December 2, 2004
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After much delay and many changes, India and France signed an agreement November 12 for the joint Megha-Tropiques mission. This satellite, whose launch is scheduled to take place in 2008 or 2009, will investigate the role of the tropical atmosphere’s water cycle in worldwide climate dynamics (cf France In Space N°268, Article 2). Under the new agreement, the role of CNES is to provide two of the three meteorological payloads: the first one will measure the vertical humidity profile in the atmosphere, the second one data on the Earth’s radiation budget. CNES will work jointly with ISRO in developing the third scientific instrument, a Multi-frequency Microwave Scanning Radiometer which will provide information on rain above the ocean, water vapour rate in the atmosphere and liquid water in clouds. ISRO will use its standard bus to build the remote sensing satellites and is also responsible for launching and controlling the satellite in orbit, and then capturing, processing and distributing the scientific data. [Space News 22/11/2004, Aviation Week & Space Technology, 22/11/2004]


Three nations –United Kingdom, France and Italy- sealed an agreement with NATO alliance to provide UHF and SHF satellite communications capacity for 15 years, starting in January 2005. France will provide capacity aboard its SHF Syracuse 3 satellites, the first of which is scheduled for launch in February or March 2005. A second Syracuse 3 satellite is under construction at Alcatel Space. The French arms-procurement agency, DGA, has an option for a third Syracuse 3 satellite and is considering different ways of sharing the overall management with Alcatel Space. Paradigm, subsidiary of EADS, is under contract with the British defence agency to supply satellite communications using UK’s current Skynet 4 satellites, and to launch two large Skynet 5 spacecrafts in 2006. Italy’s contribution for the UHF capacity will be supplied by Sicral Satellites: Sicral 1 is in orbit and Sicral 1b is under construction at Alenia Spazio Rome. The agreement between the NATO Agency and the arms directorates of the three nations is valued at 457 million euros (594 million dollars). [Space News 11/29/2004]


On 9 November the Ariane-5 booster’s solid rocket motor was successfully fired in the Booster Engine Test Stand at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. This test is part of ESA’s Ariane research and technology support programme, better known as ARTA, and its objectives were to confirm the modifications to be implemented on the next production batch of Ariane-5 boosters to be flown in 2006: new manufacturing process of the solid rocket motor welded rings, new design and type of materials of the nozzle, new thermal protection of the inner face of the booster, and modified propellant loading. Previously, two other tests had taken place in 2000 and 2001. Altogether 12 ESA Member States participate in ESA’s ARTA programme. Its main goals are to maintain the qualification level of the Ariane-5 launcher during its production phase by carrying out regular sampling tests on the most sensitive elements of the launcher. ARTA also contributes to improving Ariane-5 performance by testing modifications, deciding on which elements are now obsolete and qualifying improved manufacturing processes to reduce costs. [ESA 12/11/2004]


During the CNES “Prospective” seminar several advanced projects have been recommended, which are mainly oriented to universe exploration and study. Micro satellites are the technological key element of these new projects. Four missions will especially use them in formation flight. Aspics project is aimed to solar corona observation and Max gamma-ray lens will study black holes and gamma-ray bursts. Both missions are scheduled to be launched between 2010 and 2012. Pegase and Symbol-X missions, which will also use micro satellites in formation flight, will respectively focus on extra solar system planets and X-ray observations. Moreover, some projects, such as Dune (Dark Universe Explorer) and Neo (Near-Earth Object), will be accomplished in cooperation with ESA. Among others, Neo is particularly challenging, since it would place a spacecraft into an asteroid orbit and land a rover to study the asteroid chemical composition. All these projects involve several French laboratories, observatories and institutes, such as CEA (Centre de l’Energie Atomique) in Saclay, CESR (Centre d’Etude spatiale des Rayonnements) in Toulouse and Astrophysics Institute of Paris. Some others projects are also dedicated to Earth observation. [Air&Cosmos 11/25/2004]


ESA reports that Mars Express operations planning till the end of the year are progressing steadily. Studies on the safe deployment of the radar antenna for the MARSIS experiment are approaching completion, and expected to lead to clear conclusions in the last quarter of 2004. MARSIS is a multi-frequency Synthetic Radar Altimeter with ground penetration capabilities, whose aim is to map the distribution of water, both liquid and solid, in the upper portion of Mars crust. Although the Mars-Earth distance is still very high, leading to a low-bit rate on the telecommunications link, Mars Express has highlighted during the last months interesting scientific information. Results from the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) indicated there were abundant fluvial activities on Mars. Recent observations confirm that today water still exists as vast fields of water ice, stretching out from the South Pole. The ASPERA instrument has confirmed that a mechanical process is at work in the Martian atmosphere, explaining the loss of water over time. It is believed that solar wind erodes Mars atmosphere and strips away large amounts of water that were present on the planet 3.8 billion years ago. Moreover, the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) has revealed new information on Mars atmosphere; especially that methane is concentrated in some specific areas, where water vapour and underground water ice are also concentrated. Further investigations are needed to fully understand this correlation. [ESA 12/01/2004]

** 6: IN BRIEF

The French Company Air Liquide has completed development of on-board cryogenic cooling systems to maintain low temperatures for scientific instruments on Europe’s Herschel and Planck satellites, whose prime contractor is Alcatel Space. Herschel’s and Planck’s primary payloads are respectively a 3,5-meter-diameter telescope and a cosmic background-radiation sensor.Both satellites will be launched together in 2007. [Space News 11/29/2004]

Alcatel Space will lead a consortium to develop a GPS based navigation service for local government departments and agencies using mobile phones and other hand-held devices. [Space News 11/22/2004]

[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, Clémence Le Fèvre

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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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