Status Report

France in Space #353

By SpaceRef Editor
September 6, 2006
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ESA governments recently agreed to provide the funds needed to complete the design and development phase of the Galileo satellite navigation system. The governments have formalized contracts to pay the remaining 186 million euro share needed to complete Galileo’s In-Orbit Validation stage. The IOV will involve the design of the full ground network and the installation of roughly half of the ground infrastructure, plus the design, construction and launch of the first four operational satellites in 2008. The launch of the first four satellites may be pushed back slightly if the second test satellite, Giove-B, slips any more. Originally scheduled for launch via a Russian Soyuz rocket this fall, the satellite suffered a short circuit during thermal-vacuum testing in Italy and will most likely be delayed until early 2007. Engineers remain confident that the short circuit will be a simple fix however it may require modifications to the satellite’s broader avionics package. [Space News 09/04/06]


France’s two major satellite-television broadcasters have been given the green-light to merge by the French Finance Ministry. The merger of CanalSat and TPS will likely take effect by the end of this year however the consequences of this important merger may take a little longer to work out. CanalSat and TPS are under contract with Eutelsat and SES to lease capacity and an early termination of those agreements would likely result in costly penalties. Another costly consequence of the merger to consider is if customers’ rooftop antennas would need to be changed if one satellite broadcaster was chosen over the other. It is for this reason that Vivendi, the media conglomerate that controls the merged company, may choose to stick with both satellite providers. [Space News 09/04/06]


Eutelsat Communications, of Paris, announced last Friday that it has selected Alcatel Alenia Space for the design, manufacturing, assembly, tests and on-ground delivery of its new W2A satellite. The new, powerful, hybrid satellite, to be launched in early 2009, will increase Ku-band capacity for video, broadband and telecommunications services in Europe, Africa and the Middle East and will boost the C-band capacity for services across Africa. Alcatel and Eutelsat are still negotiating as to whether to proceed with a state-of-the-art S-band payload at 2.2 GHz for the W2A. A final decision will be made by Eutelsat in October after a full assessment can be made of market demand, the regulatory framework and financing. The S-band payload would allow for the delivery of mobile multimedia broadcast services (Mobile TV, digital radio, etc) directly onto user terminals over key markets in Western Europe. [Alcatel 09/01/06]


U.S. and French researchers have launched a unique, collaborative project in which large balloons, designed by CNES, will study and track emerging hurricanes over the Atlantic. Huge, specialized balloons, the first of which was launched from Zinder, Niger, on August 28th, will drift into the stratosphere in order to drop nearly 300 instrument packages over wide swaths of the African coast and the Atlantic Ocean. Each balloon will carry approximately 35 instruments designed by scientists and technicians at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Once launched, the driftsondes will be pushed towards the Caribbean by eastern winds from Africa at an altitude of 20 kilometers. Twice a day, probes will be dropped from the balloon and measurements will be recorded while they make their 20-minute descent. The data obtained from the study should help better characterize the conditions that either foster or suppress hurricane formation. [ 09/01/06,]


The satellite contract for the next step of the German Armed Forces’ satellite communications program, Satcom BW Stufe 2, led by EADS Astrium, has been attributed to Alcatel Alenia Space. Alcatel Alenia Space will complete the design, manufacturing and integration of the two military satellites. Based on Alcatel Alenia Space’s Spacebus 3000B architecture, the Satcom BW satellites will be fitted with payloads including Super-High Frequency (SHF), Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) and Ku-band transponders from EADS SPACE. The satellites are scheduled for delivery by the end of 2008 and should be operational by early 2009. The satellites will provide services over a region stretching from the Americas to Eastern Asia. [Alcatel 09/04/06]


Eutelsat Communications has reported a fiscal-year net profit due in part to demand for digital broadcasting data and broadband services. The Paris-based satellite operator recorded a net profit of 30.4 million euros for the year ending June 30th, compared with a net loss of 52.3 million euros a year earlier. Revenues also rose by 5.4%. Eutelsat aims to generate 800 million euros in revenue in fiscal year 2007.

In related news, the company recently inked two new contracts with Sea Launch for two launch opportunities as part of its continuing satellite deployment program. These two agreements, along with the two contracts already signed with Arianespace, complete the launch service requirements for the four Eutelsat satellites that are to be launched between 2008 and 2009. [The Wall Street Journal Europe 09/05/06, Agence France Presse 09/05/06]

** 7: IN BRIEF

Pierre Trefouret, who since 2005 has served as senior advisor to François Goulard, Minister for Research and Higher Education, has been named Director of External Communications, Education and Public Affairs. Starting September 1st, he will succeed Arnaud Benedetti, who has been named Director of Communication at the French national scientific research center (CNRS). [CNES 08/31/06]

Yannick D’Escatha, President of CNES since 2003, has been named to the board of directors of the RATP, the transit authority responsible for public transportation in Paris and its environs. [Agence France Presse 08/31/06, Les Echos 09/01/06]


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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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.