Status Report

France in Space #325

By SpaceRef Editor
February 8, 2006
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Eutelsat has chosen the up-and-coming Euro-Indian partnership of EADS Astrium and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to build its next W2M commercial telecommunications satellite. The final contract is to be signed in Delhi on February 20th, in the presence of French President Jacques Chirac and the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. The Eutelsat contract is the first to be won by the Euro-Indian joint venture; ISRO has built a number of satellites for domestic Indian use but had yet to win an export order. The W2M satellite, based on the ISRO platform used for India’s Insat 4A satellite launched in December 2005, will be equipped with up to 32 Ku-band transponders. The satellite is designed for a fifteen year operational lifespan and should be delivered to Eutelsat in 26 months for a launch in the second quarter of 2008. [Space News 02/06/06, Eutelsat 02/01/06]


On February 7th, the receiving station for the Satellite Monitoring of the Amazon Environment program (Surveillance de l’Environnement Amazonien par Satellite) was officially opened in Cayenne, French Guiana. An antenna, capable of receiving satellite imagery in real time, has also been erected at CNES’ Guiana Space Center. The technology platform in Cayenne was installed by France’s Development Research Institute (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement) and is co-funded by the French Guiana regional council, CNES, the French government and the European Union (through the European Regional Development Fund). The receiving station allows for the direct exploitation of earth observation satellite images received from SPOT (SPOT 2, 4, and 5)and ESA’s Envisat (ASAR and MERIS) spacecraft. The technology platform and the images it receives will contribute to the study and monitoring of the Amazonian eco-systems, fisheries, epidemiology, land use and water resources. [CNES 02/07/06, Agence France Presse 02/06/06]


With the current crop of European spy satellites reaching the end of their service by 2013, Europe is now faced with a number of important questions. And these questions, such as what should replace the current satellites, who should manage them and how can they be better coordinated, must be answered now if replacements are to be launched by 2013 – 2015. The coordination among Europe reconnaissance that exists today is due to the signing of the Common Operational Requirements document (Besoin Opérationnel Commun) by the French, German, Italian, Spanish, Belgian and Greek ministries of defense. The document allows for cooperation on such programs as France’s Helios, the Italo-French Cosmo Skymed-Pleiades and Germany’s SAR Lupe. The six nations share data from these satellites and have also signed on to utilize data from the French Helios 2A optical satellite launched in December 2004 and deemed fully operational in April 2005. Currently, among the six nations and their various programs there are several satellites in orbit fulfilling reconnaissance needs; a representative from the French military Joint Staff hopes that in the future there will be better coordination among European nations in terms of spy satellites and that only half a dozen spacecraft will be necessary to meet their needs. Two studies are about to be launched that may shed some light on the subject. One of the reports will be a reflection on the general architecture of the Earth observation system: the number of images required, the resolution, the division between radar and optical satellites, the orbits and telemetry; and the second will consider the definition of a common architecture of the user segment and agreed interfaces between the main functions of this segment. A memorandum of understanding will most likely be prepared by mid-2006 by BOC partners in order to carry out the studies. [Defense News 02/06/06]


EADS Astrium has signed a contract with the Algerian National Center for Space Techniques (CNTS) to develop and construct two small Earth observation satellites. The two satellites, ALSAT-2A and ALSAT-2B, will have a resolution between 2.5 and 10 meters and could be used for mapping, as well as for monitoring agricultural, water, mining and oil resources. This is the fifth contract that EADS Astrium has signed in the domain of Earth observation satellites: FORMOSAT-2, launched in May 2004, then KOMPSAT-2 and COMS for South Korea, and THEOS, currently in development for Thailand. [Agence France Presse 02/02/06]


Alcatel Alenia Space has been awarded a design contract by ESA for the ExoMars Mars Lander. The company will define the component elements and the rover operations control center. The work will then be followed by an ESA preliminary design review. The twelve-month contract is worth an estimated $15.6 million. ExoMars is to be launched in 2011 and will search for evidence of past or present life on the Red Planet. In total, ESA member countries will spend more than 600 million euros on the ExoMars mission which will include the development of entry, descent and landing technologies. [Space News 02/06/06]

** 6: IN BRIEF

Alcatel Alenia Space announced today that it will provide the French Ministry of Defense with the Defense User Ground Segment for the Italian Cosmo Skymed Earth observation program. The contract, estimated at 32 million euros, was awarded by the Italian Space Agency (ASI). ASI is acting as a procurement agency for the Italian and French Ministries of Defense as part of the project to ensure inter-operability and data exchange between the Cosmo Skymed and French Helios 2 systems (see article 3). The equipment will be installed in the French Ministry of Defense military centre in Creil, France. [Alcatel Alenia Space 02/08/06]


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.