Status Report

France in Space #297

By SpaceRef Editor
June 8, 2005
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France and the United States signed on June 7 an agreement for the “use of Istres Le Tubé 125 Air Base as a transoceanic abort landing site” for the Space Shuttle from the Return to Flight onward. This Agreement is in implementation of the International Space Station Intergovernmental Agreement done at Washington on January 29, 1998.

The Agreement was signed by His Excellency Jean-David Levitte, Ambassador of France to the United States, and the Honorable Michael Griffin, NASA Administrator, during a ceremony at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. It was concluded with an exceptional cooperation mindset and the French Air Force made their best effort to ease the implementation of all required technical and human resources.

Through this Agreement, the Space Shuttles assigned to the International Space Station may land at the 125 Air Base of Istres Le Tubé in the event of an emergency. Therefore, the Space Shuttles are authorized to enter and overfly the French airspace. Further, the French authorities will take all the necessary measures to ensure the security of the spacecrafts and their crews. The institutions in charge of the implementation of the Agreement are for the Government of the French Republic, the French Air Force, and for the Government of the United States, NASA.

“I see here another demonstration of the long lasting friendship between our two countries”, said Ambassador Levitte at the signing ceremony. “I have no doubt that it paves the way for further collaboration in the framework of the Space Exploration initiative”.

[French Embassy in Washington DC, 06/07/2005]


Arianespace announced that its next flight is set for the night of July 7-8, using an Ariane 5 Generic vehicle to orbit the IPStar satellite for Thailand’s Shinsat telecommunications operator. This launch will be the second of the year for Arianespace, following the successful demonstration of the heavy-lift Ariane 5 ECA version in February 2005.

Arianespace’s mission scheduling was reordered after a technical problem with one of the two satellites initially slated for launch on June 24 was detected. Consequently, the dual-payload launch has been delayed. It will use an Ariane 5 ECA vehicle to place the Spaceway 2 and Telkom 2 spacecrafts into geostationary transfer orbit. The Boeing satellite Spaceway 2 will be launched for the American operator DirecTV and will provide direct television services for the United States. Telkom 2, built by Orbital Sciences, will be launched for the Indonesian operator PT Telkom Indonesia and will provide telecommunications services to Indonesia.

Moreover, according to French Ministry of Defense, the launch of its military communication satellite Syracuse3-A onboard a Ariane 5 generic version is now expected between July and September 2005. [Arianespace 06/06/2005, AFP 06/06/2005, Space News 06/13/2005]


SPOT Image appointed Terra Image USA as its master distributor for SPOT satellite imagery products and services. While Terra Image USA is already SPOT’s exclusive partner for the U.S. civilian government markets since July 2004, its expanding role will include market developments and sales to the U.S. Department of Defense and commercial customers.

The Spot Image Group is the worldwide commercial operator of the SPOT satellite system, a constellation of three satellites that can capture medium- to high-resolution images at almost any point on the globe. Based in Toulouse, France, the company has subsidiaries in Australia, China, Japan, Singapore and the United States. [Terra Image USA 05/31/2005]


Germany’s MAN Group has agreed to sell its MAN Technologie AG subsidiary to the space-systems contractor OHB Technology and the investment company Apollo Capital Partners GmbH for an undisclosed price. MAN Technologie will now be renamed MT Aerospace AG.

MAN Technologie supplies components for the Ariane 5 launcher including boosters parts and the front skirt for the upper stage. It also participates in operating some launch-support facilities at Europe’s Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana. In addition, MAN Technologie has a 7.75 percent share of the Arianespace commercial launch consortium. For MAN Group, selling of its space unit has been a long-held goal as the company wants to focus on its core activities including diesel engines, commercial trucks and printing systems.

According to OHB officials, “with the acquisition of MAN Technologie OHB Technology further expands the product portfolio in its strongest division Space + Security”. The company builds small government scientific and Earth observation satellites and is prime contractor for Germany’s SAR-Lupe radar reconnaissance spacecraft. [Reuters 06/01/2005, Space News 06/06/2005]


The ESA’s (European Space Agency) SMART-1 spacecraft is currently performing the verification and calibration of its instrument, running along its science orbit at 450 kilometres from the Moon at its closest distance. Thanks to measurements by the D-CIXS X-ray spectrometer, SMART-1 has made the first ever unambiguous remote-sensing detection of calcium on the lunar surface.

D-CIXS (Demonstration of a Compact Imaging X-ray Spectrometer) is designed to measure the global composition of the Moon by observing how the surface glows in different X-ray wavelengths in reaction to the incoming solar radiation. Besides Calcium, D-CIXS has already detected the presence of aluminium, silicon and iron.

Developed by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in United Kingdom, the ultra-compact D-CIXS instrument is one of the most innovative elements of the SMART-1 scientific instrumentation. It is the first X-ray spectrometer ever flown in space with sufficient spectral resolution to separate signals coming from different chemical elements. [ESA 06/08/2005]

** 6: IN BRIEF

SNECMA has successfully performed a first test firing of the Vinci, a new-generation cryogenic upper-stage engine intended for future versions of the Ariane 5 heavy-lift launcher. [Aviation Week & Space Technologies 05/30/2005]

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”.

SpaceRef staff editor.