Status Report

France in Space #360

By SpaceRef Editor
November 16, 2006
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ESA’s Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) has passed a key milestone in its development; in tests carried out at the French Arms Procurement Agency’s (DGA) 600-meter long research facility in Val de Reuil, France, the ATV proved that it could complete an automated rendezvous and docking with the ISS. Engineers replicated a rendezvous in real, life-size conditions using the ATV’s flight sensors that fed measurements into the flight control computer. The ATV and its docking partner were programmed to move as they would in space. All systems worked perfectly from the start, at 250 meters away, to the docking. The ATV has one final test to undergo, thermal vacuum testing, which will be carried out at ESA’s ESTEC facility. ESA officials believe that the Jules Verne ATV could be sent to the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, as soon as the end of March 2007, for a possible launch between May and July. As large as a double-decker bus, the Astrium-built ATV will be able to carry 7.5 tons of cargo to the ISS, the equivalent of three times what the Russian vehicle Progress is currently able to transport. [Agence France Presse 11/10/06, ESA 09/27/06]


Alcatel Alenia Space announced October 26th, 2006, that it will develop and supply the S-Band Formation Flying Radio Frequency (FFRF) sensor as part of the PRISMA (Prototype Research Instruments and Space Mission technology Advancement) mission. The mission consists of two demonstrator spacecraft, one “main” vehicle that is highly maneuverable and the “target” vehicle which remains passive. Both satellites fly in the same orbit with the “main” satellite moving towards and away from the smaller and lighter “target” satellite, which follows its initial trajectory. The goal of the PRISMA mission is to perform precision guidance, navigation and control demonstrations, as well as in-flight validation of sensor technologies for future space mission in which rendezvous and formation flying are a necessity. Alcatel Alenia’s French and Spanish branches will design, manufacture, and test the FFRF sensor in the framework of the bilateral Earth science missions agreement between CNES and the Spanish Space Agency (CDTI). The PRISMA mission is funded by the Swedish National Space Board (SNSB), with the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) acting as prime contractor, and with the cooperation of CNES, DLR and the Danish Technical University (DTU). The PRISMA satellites are scheduled for launch in 2009. [Alcatel 10/26/06, Air & Cosmos 11/11/06]


Terrestar Networks has selected Arianespace to launch its next satellite sometime between November 2007 and April 2008. The Terrestar 1 mobile communications satellite, the largest satellite of its kind (weighing some 6700 kilograms) will be launched aboard an Ariane 5 GS rocket as a solo passenger. The spacecraft will be launched by one of the three remaining Ariane 5 GS which Arianespace is phasing out in favor of the larger and more powerful Ariane 5 ECA, capable of launching two satellites with a combined weight of 9000 kilograms. The new contract also includes options for launches of two additional Terrestar satellites. Terrestar 1, currently under construction by Space Systems/Loral, will inaugurate the company’s S-band two-way communications service over North America; Terrestar is also negotiating with partners to expand its service to Europe. [Space News 11/13/06]


In the same week that ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft celebrated the first anniversary of its launch it also celebrated an award received from the editors of Popular Science magazine, naming the vehicle one of the top 100 technological innovations of the year. The award, announced in the December edition of the magazine, recognizes both the speed with which the mission was established and the unprecedented study it is making of Venus, Earth’s closest neighbor. Since its launch on November 9th, 2005, Venus Express (built by Astrium France as prime contractor) has not ceased to amaze both scientists and amateurs alike with its stunning images and wealth of data. The design of the Venus Express mission (similar to the Mars Express vehicle) and the speed with which it was completed have led many scientists and engineers to rethink how future space missions should be carried out. Popular Science magazine, founded in 1872, is the world’s most widely read science and technology publication. [ESA 11/14/06]


Eutelsat Communications, of Paris, published its first quarter 2006 – 2007 revenues this week which showed an increase in revenues of 6% over last year, for a total of 199.5 million euros. The increase reflects the robust growth in video applications which are up 10.7% following the deployment of HOT BIRD 7A and ATLANTIC BIRD 4 satellites. Eutelsat’s performance over the three month period leads the company to believe that they will achieve their revenue objective of over 800 million euros for the current fiscal year. [Eutelsat 11/08/06, Agence France Presse 11/05/06]

** 6: IN BRIEF

CNES’ CoRoT (Convection, Rotation & planetary Transits) Space Telescope arrived today, November 15, 2006, at the Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan. The launch is presently scheduled for December 21st, 2006, at 14h54 UT. For more information and to follow the launch countdown, please visit: or

Arabsat’s BADR-4, a Eurostar E2000+ satellite built by Astrium France, was successfully launched on November 9th, 2006, from Baikonur via a Proton Breeze M launcher from International Launch Services (ILS).

Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) has delivered its WildBlue-1 all Ka-band satellite to Kourou, French Guiana, where it underwent and successfully completed the “fit check” verification with its launcher interface hardware. The satellite is now ready for launch via Ariane 5 ECA on December 8th, 2006. [ 11/10/06, Arianespace 11/14/06]


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”.

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SpaceRef staff editor.