Status Report

France in Space #299

By SpaceRef Editor
June 22, 2005
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Europe’s two principal satellite prime contractors signed on June 17, 2005 at the Paris Air Show a contract valued at 200 million euros, to develop Alphabus, the new European platform dedicated to the next generation of telecommunications satellites. This programme will be jointly led by Alcatel Space and EADS Astrium along with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the French Space Agency CNES.

The Alphabus platform targets the upper segment of the satcom market (6 to 8-ton satellites), offering a very high-power payload (12 to 18 kilowatts), a lower cost per transponder and the capability to fly reconfigurable missions. The platform could carry near 200 high-power transponders and numerous antennas, making new applications possible, including upgraded mobile and broadband services, digital radio broadcasting and HDTV (High-Definition Television). The production of the first Alphabus flight model is scheduled around 2008. [ESA 06/16/2005, Space News 06/20/2005]


On June 16, 2005 the operational readiness review of the European Geostationnary Navigation Overlay System (EGNOS) was completed, involving that the system delivered to ESA by an industrial consortium led by Alcatel Space was formally accepted.

As a consequence, EGNOS initial operations can now start through a contract with the European Satellite Service Provider (ESSP). The operational stability of the system is expected to be reached by early 2006. At that point, the EGNOS service will be fully available to the general public across Europe for non-safety-of-life applications and free of direct charges.

The EGNOS programme is jointly led by ESA, the European Commission and Eurocontrol, the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation. Three dedicated satellites are located in geostationary orbit above Europe and transmit a GPS-like (Global Positioning System) signal that improves the GPS accuracy and reliability. The deployment of EGNOS’s ground system is nearly completed with about 40 monitoring stations and control centres all over Europe. [ESA 06/21/2005]


France and Italy are currently discussing about the joint development of a telecommunications satellite called Athena that would be launched in 2009 and would replace the previous civilian technology project Agora. The spacecraft would be dedicated to military communications as well as civil broadband access for rural populations in the two nations.

Previously, France, Italy and Britain have won a NATO contract to provide military communications using their own national satellites: the Syracuse 3A and 3B for France, the Sicral 1 and 1b for Italy and the Skynet 4 and 5 for Britain. In the near future, the Agora spacecraft would replace the Syracuse 3C and perhaps the Sicral 2 satellites. Moreover, a common development project will be facilitated by the planned merger of the space divisions of Alcatel Space and Finmeccanica, respectively prime contractors for Syracuse 3 and Sicral programs. [Space News 06/20/2005]


EADS Astrium and Antrix, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced on June 17, 2005 at the Paris Air Show that they will jointly develop small telecommunications satellites. They will be based on Antrix-provided platforms and EADS Astrium-built communications payloads.

This opportunity allows EADS Astrium to enter in the emergent segment of commercial small satellites. As a first application of the agreement, India will provide its Insat series of telecommunications satellites, weighting 2000 to 3000 kilograms at launch. [Space News 06/20/2005]


Lockheed Martin and EADS Space Transportation, the French-German subsidiary of EADS Space have signed an agreement for the commercial sate of the European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) dedicated to the International Space Station (ISS) cargo supply. Announced at the Paris Air Show on June 14, the deal takes place in a context where a gap in ISS-supply capacity is expected, especially after the Shuttle’s retirement. In addition, NASA is preparing an initial bid solicitation for commercial ISS cargo-supply services, expected to be issued to industry later this year.

EADS Space Transportation is the prime contractor of the ATV whose first launch is scheduled for early 2006. Under another agreement signed between the European Space Agency and NASA, Europe will contribute to the ISS’s maintenance and operation through six ATV missions as part of a barter arrangement. [Space News 06/20/2005]

** 6: IN BRIEF

Italy has given its approval to become a partner in the French-led Helios 2 optical surveillance program, alongside Belgium and Spain. In exchange for Helios 2 data, Italy agreed to provide data from its CosmoSkyMed radar satellite network to France. [Aviation Week 06/20/2005]

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.