Status Report

France in Space #302

By SpaceRef Editor
July 28, 2005
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CNES’s Board of Directors approved July 13 the participation of the agency in the eavesdropping demonstration programme called ELINT (ELectronic INTelligence). The project worth 170 million euros is co-financed by CNES and the French Defense Procurement Agency (DGA), in the framework of a research and development partnership agreement signed in January 2005. The ELINT demonstrator is designed to investigate radio communications and radar signals, and to provide France with an operational eavesdropping capability. It is composed of four micro satellites based on the Myriade series developed by CNES. The system is slated for launch in the last quarter of 2009 and would be operational until 2013. A consortium led by EADS Astrium-SAS is in charge of the design and the construction of the ELINT demonstrator, Thales being involved in the payloads and ground segment development. [CNES 07/21/2005]


The French Space Agency CNES and the German Aerospace Centre DLR have agreed to create a joint Earth observation research centre to support processing and analysis of data from their future satellites constellations. A new network will be created in partnership with the French national school of telecommunications (ENST), which includes a department specialized in imagery processing. ENST would chair the new network while CNES and DLR facilities respectively in Toulouse and Oberpfaffenhofen will provide R&D efforts. The network is intended to improve the ability of ground facilities to handle the overwhelming amount of high-resolution satellite imagery and to automatically extract information with upgraded algorithms. Among the systems to benefit from the new network is the German TerraSAR radar observation satellite, to be launched next year, as well as the French dual-use high-resolution optical Pleiades constellation. [Space News 07/11/2005, Aviation Week 07/11/2005]


EADS Defense and Communications Systems (DCS) signed an agreement with the Vietnamese government to provide a complete environmental and natural resources monitoring system. Under the three-year contract valued at 19.3 million euros, EADS will install a ground station to receive data from SPOT and ENVISAT satellites, a centre dedicated to the processing and distribution of imagery, as well as 15 specialised application systems for operational and research purposes. The applications include risk prevention, emergency rescue services, agricultural land use, inland waters and forests protection, surveillance of maritime and coastal zones as well as geological studies for oil and mining industries. This partnership enlarges the 15-year scientific and technological cooperation in the remote sensing field between France and Vietnam. [ 07/12/2005, Space News 07/11/2005]


Spot Image and ImageONE have signed a partnership agreement under which ImageONE becomes the exclusive distributor of FORMOSAT-2 data to the Japanese market. This Earth observation satellite, launched in May 2004 by Taiwan’s space agency, provides two-metre resolution imagery over Japan and its surroundings. According to Hervé Buchwalter, Chairman and CEO of Spot Image, “the data of this new satellite will reinforce the success of efforts to promote SPOT 5, for which we also signed in 2002 an exclusive agreement (with Japan) for the national security market”. Indeed, as explained Hiroshi Nashimoto, President of ImageONE “FORMOSAT-2 will serve as a good complementary data source to SPOT 5 for the territories surrounding Japan”. With strong interest in satellite-based Earth observation, Japan has been the biggest user of SPOT imagery in the Asia-Pacific region for several years now. [Spot Image 07/22/2005]


Venus Express, the first European space probe to investigate the planet Venus has completed its development, integration and test phase in Toulouse. The spacecraft is being manufactured by EADS Astrium as prime contractor for the European Space Agency. The project managers plan to ship it to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on August 6 for a launch on board a Soyuz-Fregat rocket scheduled in late October 2005.

The Venus Express development has re-used both Mars Express spacecraft design and the available instruments from the Mars Express and Rosetta programs, allowing cost and time efficiency. EADS Astrium highlights that about 85 percent of Venus Express’s hardware is re-used from Mars Express. Specific solar panels, equipped with gallium gallium arsenide solar cells, were anyway developed to withstand the high temperature loads encountered during the mission to Venus.

Venus Express development began in late 2002 and has an overall cost of 220 million euros, including about 82 million to EADS Astrium for the construction and integration of the instruments and 37 million to the French-Russian Starsem joint-venture for the Soyuz launch. For two Venusian years (500 Earth days), the spacecraft will investigate the Venus atmosphere in terms of structure, composition and dynamics on a highly elliptical orbit that varies between 250 and 66 000 kilometres above the surface. [EADS Space 07/07/2005, Air&Cosmos 07/15/2005]


SES Astra has awarded a contract to EADS Astrium to design and build the ASTRA 1M communications satellite. The 5.3-ton spacecraft for which EADS Astrium will provide both the payload and the platform will be based on the manufacturer’s Eurostar E3000 platform, the latest version of the Eurostar series.

ASTRA 1M will carry 36 transponders for its first five years in orbit, covering the UK and Irish markets as well as providing additional service for the African market. The satellite will provide in theses areas various television broadcasting services, including HDTV (High-Definition TeleVision) and broadband telecommunications. [ 07/22/2005]


The European Space Agency (ESA) transferred ownership of the Cupola observation deck for the International Space Station (ISS) to NASA on July 7. This event marks the conclusion of ESA’s obligations for the Cupola’s development as part of a ESA-NASA barter agreement, under which ESA provides the Cupola module in exchange for Shuttle transportation services for European equipment and experiments to the ISS.

The Alenia Spazio-built Cupola deck, whose launch is currently planned for the first quarter of 2009, is equipped with windows providing a panoramic view, it will allow observing and guiding operations outside of the ISS like those of the robotic arm.

Before the launch of the Cupola, Europe’s other major contributions to the ISS include the Colombus laboratory, due for launch in 2007, and the two connecting modules, Node 2 planned for launch in December 2006 and Node 3, the connection point for Cupola, in 2008. [ 07/21/2005]

** 8: IN BRIEF

After the completion of additional checks and work on parts of the launcher, Arianespace has set the launch date of the IPSTAR satellite for the night of August 10-11, 2005. The payload will be put into orbit by a generic version of Ariane 5 for the Thai operator Shinsat. [Arianespace 07/25/2005]


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.