Status Report

France in Space #312

By SpaceRef Editor
October 28, 2005
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It was announced on Monday, October 24th, that the launch of the Calipso and CloudSat atmospheric satellites would not take place as scheduled and has been postponed to an as yet undetermined date. It is believed that the launch could take place sometime next month however it remains uncertain. These two microsatellites will reveal to climatologists and scientologists alike the secrets of clouds and of aerosols, the fine particles held in suspension in the atmosphere. Calipso, the fruit of collaboration between CNES and NASA, carries on board a Cloud-Aerosol Lidar, a imaging infrared radiometer and a wide field camera. It has an expected lifespan of 3 years. CloudSat was designed through a collaboration of the Canadian Space Agency and NASA and will study the vertical structure of ice clouds and other dense clouds. Through this study, scientists will have access to never before seen information on the thickness of clouds, which will help determine their volume and the amount of water, snow and ice that they contain. CloudSat has a lifespan of 22 months. [Agence France Presse 10/24/2005] More information:


Thanks to a creative use of its solar-electric propulsion system, ESA’s SMART-1 has had its lifetime extended by six to eighteen months. This ion engine was built by SAFRAN, in cooperation with the Russian company OKB Fakel and with the support of CNES. The SMART-1 mission had originally been granted financial support to extend its run but it all depended on the satellite’s propulsion system and the amount of fuel left on board.

From August to September 2005, a series of re-boost maneuvers was undertaken which allowed the spacecraft to reach an optimal orbit thus prolonging the mission by several months. SMART-1 was then ready to perform more complex scientific observations. The satellite’s first phase was devoted to observing the Moon and studying the behavior of spacecraft and instruments in the difficult thermal conditions around the Moon. SMART-1 will end its run naturally around mid-August 2006 when it impacts with the lunar surface. [SAFRAN 09/26/2005, ESA 09/26/2005]


ESA is set to ask the 17 member governments to make good on their promise to fund a decade-long Earth observation program when the conference of European space ministers convenes December 5-6, 2005. ESA is most worried about the funding for the Global Monitoring for Environment & Security (GMES) program. They plan on asking the governments to make an immediate 200 million euro-payment to go towards the first phase of this long-term project. The money would be used in the construction of a GMES-1 satellite to ensure the continuation of data, currently being supplied by the Envisat and ERS-2 radar Earth observation satellites, when the two spacecrafts are retired sometime in 2010. The money would also go to building sensors to be used on future GMES satellites and to work on connecting the ground infrastructure being built for the satellites provided by European governments. ESA wants to be sure that these satellites, France’s optical Pleiades, Germany’s radar TerraSAR-X and Italy’s radar Cosmo Skymed for example, can all be used conjointly.

The ESA member states will also be asked to approve a second-phase investment of 430 million euros in 2006 or 2007 in order to complete the GMES-1 satellite. And ESA’s projects do not stop there; in December, the agency will ask the governments for financing for an Earth Observation Envelope Program to start in 2008 at a cost of 1.49 billion euros. A portion of this sum would go towards the EarthCare satellite, a joint program with Japan. [Space News 10/17/2005]


In the framework of a CNES initiative, some French universities and research centers started working this year on the design of a new small launcher dedicated to nano-satellites. The PERSEUS project (Project Etudiant de Recherche Spatiale Européen Universitaire et Scientifique) aims at developing and demonstrating a whole launch system with various innovative technologies regarding propulsion, structure, avionics, electrical systems, etc. The launcher mission consists of putting some 10-kilogram satellites into a polar orbit at 250 kilometers. Such projects, as California State University’s Prospector 5 launcher, are already on track in the United States, showing the great interest in gathering the academic, research and industry communities for the development of new space technologies. [Espace Mag 11/01/2005,]


The Paris-based satellite operator Eutelsat decided to cut the price and size of its initial public offering. Its introduction to the Euronext exchange market is scheduled October 28 and Eutelsat expects to raise about 860 million euros, almost 30 percent less than was initially planned. According to some financial analysts, the size of its planned IPO was too ambitious regarding the market prices.

The sale should transfer around 30 percent of Eutelsat’s equity into the public sector and make Eutelsat the fifth global satellite-fleet operator to have publicly traded stock after SES Global, PanAmSat, New Skies and Inmarsat. With this operation, Eutelsat wants to reduce its debt and better position itself for growth. The cash infusion from the IPO is expected to give Eutelsat momentum as it moves outside its core European markets and plans to introduce expanded services such as high-definition television (HDTV) in Europe and high-speed internet connections. [Wall Street Journal 10/26/2005, La Tribune 10/25/2005, Space News 10/17/2005]

** 6: IN BRIEF

Contamination found inside the fairing of ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft has delayed its launch by several days. Originally set to be launched October 26, 2005 by a Soyuz-Fregat launcher, Venus Express will have to undergo additional checks before a new launch date is scheduled. [ESA 10/24/2005]

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, Noëlle Miliard

France In Space is available online at There you will find the current issue, subscription and un-subscription forms, as well as the archives with a search engine.

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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.