Status Report

France in Space #329

By SpaceRef Editor
March 9, 2006
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A decision may be made as soon as April as to whether the French Agency for Industrial Innovation (AII) will bring substantial financial backing to a hybrid satellite network project that would deliver television programming to mobile phones. The AII is reviewing Alcatel’s proposal to install a national network of hub stations and to fund research on user terminals for an S-band satellite-based network. The necessary spacecraft could be in orbit in 2009. Eutelsat is proposing to add an S-band payload to its W2A satellite which is scheduled to launch in late 2008. The operator will base its decision on whether cellular operators choose a hybrid S-band network instead of a purely terrestrial option. The large majority of cellular networks in Europe have begun experimenting with delivering television programming to mobile phones and it has proved successful. More bandwidth will be needed, however, if they are to accommodate the expected growth over the next three or four years. The S-band network seems to be the best solution as the technology is readily available and it would require only a few thousand euros of investment per ground station. Alcatel has announced that they plan to begin testing a hybrid S-band system this spring in partnership with CNES. [Space News 03/06/06]


Farmstar, a European company backed by EADS Astrium’s Infoterra Global and Arvalis, the French agricultural-research cooperative, plans to market its services to the United States, Canada and South America starting in 2006. Farmstar currently offers satellite-based crop data directly to farmers, which enables them to apply treatments such as fertilizer and pesticides more efficiently. The images are currently delivered to 10,000 farmers in France who collectively have 250,000 hectares under plow; the company expects to double those figures in the next two years. Subscribers pay on average 10 euros per hectare per year for the service and studies have shown that farmers can save as much as 25 euros per hectare by following Farmstar indications. Expanding their services to the United States, Canada, South America and Australia is the next obvious step for Farmstar’s development due to the logistics of satellite coverage. The cost of programming a satellite and acquiring the image remain too high, especially if the territory to be covered is as small as France. The Farmstar system uses three French Spot satellites that cover 60 square kilometers each, as well as India’s IRS spacecraft (through Spot Image). [Space News 03/06/06]


ESA scientists, using recent measurements from the Envisat satellite, have found a significant difference in sea-surface height between the western and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean which suggests that a La Niña event is beginning. La Niña is a cooling event equivalent to El Niño, during which the warm waters from the Pacific shift westward and a rush of cold water takes its place. This phenomenon reduces rainfall in the eastern equatorial Pacific but increases it in the west. ESA’s Envisat satellite has recorded differences in sea-surface height of 23 inches between the western and eastern Pacific. This data correlates with other sources, including the 70 buoys from the U.S. Tropical Ocean Atmosphere array and the more than 2,000 global Argo floats. Based on the current data, it is believed that this La Niña will be a weak one.


An announcement was made February 28th that Arianespace will launch the WildBlue-1 consumer broadband satellite, for WildBlue Communications Inc., in the fourth quarter of 2006. The spacecraft, built by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, California, will provide Ka-band capacity in the United States. WildBlue currently leases the capacity on Telesat Canada’s Anik F2 satellite which was launched in 2004 by Arianespace. Services on WildBlue-1 will be available in January 2007 however the company said it will continue to use capacity aboard the Anik F2 spacecraft even after WildBlue-1 enters service. [Space News 03/06/06]


Alcatel Alenia Space demonstrated the first emergency service based on EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service), a GPS augmentation system functioning over Europe, in Lisbon, Portugal, on March 3rd. The integrated end-to-end Location-Based Solution (LBS), conceived under the coordination of Alcatel Alenia Space, allows the Civil Security Forces and Fire Brigades to locate emergency calls from cellular phones and efficiently guide intervention teams. The new service improves the speed and effectiveness of the rescue, increases team safety and optimizes the resources needed for overall incident management. This emergency management service was developed in the scope of the European Research and Development project SCORE (Service of Coordinated Operational Emergency & Rescue using EGNOS). SCORE, managed by Galileo Joint Undertaking (GJU), was launched in February 2004. [Alcatel 03/01/06]

** 6: IN BRIEF

French President Jacques Chirac is scheduled to visit Alcatel Alenia Space’s facilities in Cannes, France, on March 9th. During his visit he will be giving a speech on current French and European Space policy. [Agence France Presse 03/02/06]

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

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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.