Status Report

France in Space #349

By SpaceRef Editor
August 9, 2006
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Following a series of meetings between partners (ESA, EUMETSAT, CNES, NOAA), and the launch company Starsem, ESA announced this week that MetOp, the first in the new European series of operational meteorological satellites in polar orbit, will now be launched on October 7th, 2006. The MetOp satellite was first scheduled for launch via Soyuz launcher from Baikonur on July 17th but was called off three consecutive times due to technical difficulties related to the launcher’s ground system. MetOp is the first of three satellites to be launched which are designed to provide meteorological operational data from polar orbit through the year 2020. All three satellites are developed by a joint EUMETSAT and ESA team, with EADS Astrium acting as prime contractor. The state-of-the-art instruments are being provided by ESA, EUMETSAT, CNES and the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). [ESA 08/07/06, Agence France Presse 08/07/06]


The Calipso satellite, a joint NASA – CNES mission, is now fully operational and transmitting very detailed profiles of the Earth’s atmosphere. Scientists are rejoicing in the wealth of information which should shed some light on the interactions between aerosols and clouds. The first two instruments to be activated were the CNES’ Infrared Imager Radiometer (IIR) and NASA’s visible Wide Field Camera (WFC) which came online only days after Calipso’s launch. The IIR’s data acts as a complement to that of the Lidar and also records the size and shape of ice particles in high clouds, while the WFC provides high-resolution images for analyzing the meteorological context of the Lidar data. The Lidar itself, the satellite’s principal payload, was brought online once Calipso had attained its final position in the A-Train formation. Thanks to its 1-meter telescope, the Lidar provides vertical profiles of the atmosphere, both day and night, from the Earth’s surface up to 40 km. The measurements describe the vertical distribution of clouds and aerosols and of tiny solid and liquid particles generated either by natural processes (i.e. wind storms, ocean mists, volcanoes, etc) or by mankind (pollution, slash-and-burn agriculture, etc.). The data obtained from these three instruments, when used in conjunction, will improve our understanding of the influence of clouds and aerosols whose role in global warming remains uncertain. Four manufacturers were involved in the construction of the satellite and its instruments: Alcatel Alenia Space for the satellite, EADS SODERN for the IIR, Ball Aerospace for the Lidar and payload, and Boeing for the launcher. [CNES 07/26/06]


Proba-3, which will demonstrate the technologies required for formation flying of multiple spacecraft, is the third in ESA’s series of mission aimed at validating developments in space systems. The Proba-3 mission was given the green-light at ESA’s Ministerial Council in December 2005 where ideas for the design, development and in-flight operation of a set of small satellites for the full-scale testing and validation of formation flying missions were proposed. Mastering formation flying will require the development of new and state-of-the-art technologies in fields such as metrology and spacecraft guidance, navigation and control. Proba-3 is currently in its preparatory study phase and will comprise two independent, three-axis stabilized spacecraft flying close to one another with the ability to precisely control the altitude and separation of the two craft. [ESA 08/08/06]


In an announcement made at the end of July, EADS stated that their space division, EADS Space, reported sharply higher revenues for the first half of this year (ending June 30th). The Astrium satellite division, work on the Ariane 5 launcher and the military satellite services division all drove the increase. EADS believes that their space division is on track to increase its contribution to the company’s profit in the second half of this year. The division’s revenues for the first half of 2006 were 1.27 billion euros, an increase of 9.7% over last year at this time. The Astrium satellite division won five telecommunications contracts in the first six months of this year and the space division is prime contractor for the Ariane 5 heavy-lift launcher, which has launched twice so far this year and will likely launch three or four more times by year’s end. Both of these facts contribute to the company’s healthy increase in revenues. [Space News 08/07/06]


Eutelsat Communication’s HOT BIRD 8 broadcast satellite was successfully launched by a Proton Breeze M from Baikonur Cosmodrome on August 5th at 4:48 pm EST. Weighing almost five tons on the launch pad, the HOT BIRD 8 satellite is the largest and most powerful European Ku-band broadcast satellite to be placed in geostationary orbit. The new satellite should be fully operational by October of this year and will take on all broadcast traffic presently handled by the HOT BIRD 3 satellite which will subsequently continue commercial service at an alternative location. [Eutelsat 08/05/06, Agence France Presse 08/07/06]


ESA astronaut and crew member of the most recent Shuttle flight to the International Space Station (ISS) Thomas Reiter has set a new record for the number of days spent (non-consecutive) in space by a European astronaut. On the morning of August 4th, just 30 days after arriving at the ISS, Reiter broke the previous record of 209 days, 12 hours, 25 minutes and 11 seconds, held by the ESA astronaut Jean-Pierre Haigneré. This is Reiter’s second sojourn in space; from September 1995 to February 1996, he was the on-board engineer for the ESA-Russian Euromir 95 mission to the Mir space station. Thomas Reiter is scheduled to stay on board the ISS until December 2006 at which point he will have spent one year in space. His space career is filled with many firsts. Reiter is the first non-U.S., non-Russian astronaut to become a permanent ISS crew member and on August 3rd he became the first ESA astronaut to perform a spacewalk when he and NASA astronaut Jeff Williams spent just under six hours installing hardware and positioning instruments and experiments outside of the ISS. [ESA 08/07/06]


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, Noëlle Miliard and Timothée Verwaerde

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“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”.

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