Status Report

France in Space #332

By SpaceRef Editor
March 29, 2006
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Despite not yet having the funds in hand, ESA is ready to sign contracts for three new Earth observation satellites.  The three spacecraft will be the first hardware-development initiative in the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) program lead by ESA and the European Commission.  For the moment ESA has only received roughly 253 million euros of the more than 1.2 billion euros needed to build and launch the satellites.  Nevertheless, ESA remains confident that its member states will make good on their financial promises given the level of interest in the program.  These promises (although informal, still add up to about 800 million euros) and the likelihood of money coming from the European Commission are enough for ESA to start soliciting bids for the three satellites.  The first spacecraft, Sentinel-1, will be contracted this year and most likely launched in 2010 or 2011.  The second, which will have a super-spectral land-monitoring sensor, and the third, containing an ocean-monitoring altimeter and an optical and infrared radiometer, will follow in the 2011 – 2012 timeframe.  [Space News 03/27/06] 


Vinci, a cryogenic rocket engine developed by Snecma Moteurs (a subsidiary of SAFRAN Group) under ESA oversight, assisted by the project team at CNES’ Launch Vehicles Directorate, recently underwent two successful test-firings, confirming its reliability.  The Vinci engine is unique as it uses an expander cycle, avoiding the use of gas generators to drive its turbopumps, thus reducing the risk of explosions and enhancing its reliability and safety.  To date, the engine has undergone six test-firings; during the last set of tests in February it was fired at full thrust for the first time and was also operated for up to 350 seconds.  More tests will be carried out later this year and then Vinci will go through a three year demonstration period to confirm its viability.  Vinci’s distinctiveness comes from the fact that it delivers approximately 18 metric tons of thrust, can be restarted several times in succession and can even be restarted in flight using an electric igniter.  Arianespace is considering the new-generation rocket engine for the third stage of its Ariane 5 ESC-B rocket; the engine could also be modified for lighter vehicles such as Vega.  [ In_CNES_Tests.html 03/27/06]


In the field of security-related work, ESA is making space surveillance, harmonized national Earth observation ground networks and data-relay satellites priority research.  ESA has recognized the importance of knowing which satellites are flying over European soil and promotes a coordinated European approach to the survey of the space environment.  Normally ESA would not be allowed a role in defense-related activities (due to its founding convention) however it hopes to benefit from Europe’s renewed focus on environmental and security research.  ESA has also worked on cryptography for satellite ground communications terminals, anti-jamming technologies to protect satellite transmissions and certain satellite payload technologies that have recently sparked interest among military users.  ESA is coordinating its efforts with the European Commission, especially in regards to space-based security issues, which is anticipated to receive funding in the European Union’s next multiyear research program.  [Space News 03/27/06]


Emergesat, a humanitarian tool that combines space-based telecommunications, Earth observation, localization and navigation solutions, as well as ground-based radio technologies, was demonstrated last Thursday at the French National School for Fire Fighting Officers (Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Officiers de Sapeurs-Pompiers).  On hand for the event were former French minister Nicole Guedj; Yannick D’Escatha, President of CNES; Pascale Sourisse, President and CEO of Alcatel Alenia Space; and Jean-Pierre Massue, President of REMIFOR.  Emergesat, which will aid emergency personnel in cases of industrial, natural or terrorist disasters, will now be offered to humanitarian, international and other non-governmental agencies; the Red Cross will be one of the first agencies to obtain an Emergesat unit.  Its projected price tag is only between 150,000 and 200,000 euros which makes it attractive to agencies.  The crisis management tool will still undergo one month of testing in remote, mountainous areas but will then be ready for mass production.  Five or six units will be deployed to very high-risk areas in the next couple of months.  [Agence France Presse 03/24/06, Emergesat 03/23/06] For more information please see Article 2 of the November 17th edition of France in Space.


ESA has established a satellite mapping service, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to assist civil security activities in eastern France.  This pilot-program was developed to help in the management of floods, which today represent the most common natural disaster in the world.  The service will supply end-users with maps of the crisis area in less than six hours.  It will use two different types of satellite data: high-resolution data from optical satellites, combined with radar images that can be obtained regardless of cloud-cover and meteorological conditions.  The zone covered by this service consists of 18 counties (“départements”) in eastern France, representing a surface of 105,000 km2.  The Regional Service of Image Treatment and Remote Sensing (SERTIT), located in Strasbourg, France, and specialized in rapid mapping, will be in charge of collecting and distributing the images.  [ 6818&PARAM2=PLUS 03/27/06]


ESA has announced that its European Robotic Arm (ERA), one of the agency’s most important offerings to the International Space Station, will be delivered to Russia this summer.  It is expected to be launched in 2007.  Once installed on the exterior of the ISS, the 11-meter long robotic arm will have multiple applications.  It has the ability to move up to 8 tons and will be used to move experimental equipment and astronauts to various external locations.  The ERA also has a video camera which will allow it to inspect the exterior of the space station.  Its seven joints give it an uncompromised flexibility and it can be controlled from both inside and outside the ISS, either in real-time or pre-programmed, offering the astronauts more freedom.  The ERA is a cooperative venture between ESA and Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency.  [ESA 03/23/06]


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.