Status Report

France in Space #361

By SpaceRef Editor
November 30, 2006
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SES ASTRA announced November 21st that it has selected Astrium Satellites to build its new ASTRA 3B spacecraft. Astrium will act as prime contractor for the satellite thus ensuring its design and construction. The state-of-the-art Ku and Ka-band ASTRA 3B spacecraft will be designed for both direct-to-home (DTH) broadcast and two-way broadband services over Europe. It is expected to be launched by the end of 2009. ASTRA 3B will be based on Astrium’s Eurostar E3000 platform; to date, 31 Eurostar satellites have been successfully orbited. This is the third ASTRA satellite to be built by Astrium Satellites, after ASTRA 2B and ASTRA 1M. [EADS Space & SES ASTRA 11/21/06, Agence France Press 11/21/06]


On November 30, the P80 motor, which will power Vega’s first stage, will undergo its first static firing at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. The firing is planned for 12:00 local time but will depend on wind conditions as to make sure that the exhaust cloud does not drift over populated areas. The test is to last roughly 100 seconds during which the motor will deliver approximately 200 tons of thrust. The Solid Booster Test Bench (BEAP) is the only test pad at the Space Center, and since 1993, has been witness to the successful testing of Ariane 5 Solid Booster Stage (EAP) motors. The BEAP was recently modified to accommodate different boosters for static firing. The development of the P80 motor was managed by an integrated team, lead by CNES, on behalf of ESA. It is the last of Vega’s motors to undergo static firing. The Zefiro 9 and Zefiro 23, which will power Vega’s third and second stages, were test fired in December 2005 and June 2006, respectively, at a test center run by the Italian Air Force in Sardinia. After tomorrow’s test, the three motors will likely go through an additional static test before Vega’s maiden flight planned for the end of 2007. [ESA 11/27/06, La Croix 11/28/06]


On November 23rd, CNES and Ifremer (French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea) signed an agreement to reinforce their collaboration in the field of operational oceanography. Operational oceanography is based on three key elements: numerical simulation, space-based and in-situ observation. According to the terms of the agreement, CNES and Ifremer will further coordinate their efforts and will continue to work together on their various joint programs. At the European level, operational oceanography is one of the priorities of the “European Global Monitoring for Environment and Security” (GMES) program. It was in this context that CNES and Ifremer decided to reinforce their collaboration, which is centered on research and operational oceanography. New projects will also be undertaken such as the development of CATDS+, a data processing center for the SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity) mission, as well as a project in collaboration with Météo-France and CNRS/INSU to investigate the winds/flux theme. [CNES 11/23/06]


An international team of researchers, led by two French astronomers, was recently able to detect and measure a magnetic field on tau Bootis, a star orbited by a giant planet, using the ESPaDOnS spectropolarimeter installed on the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. This is a major break-through as, up until now, only indirect clues pointed to the presence of magnetic fields on stars hosting giant extra-solar planets. Tau Bootis is a one billion year old star, with a mass of one and a half solar masses and located at nearly 50 light years from Earth. This cool and weakly active star, orbited by a giant planet the size of 4.4 Jupiter masses, and on a very close orbit of 0.049 AU, possesses a magnetic field of a few gauss, just slightly more than that of the Sun’s, but showing a more complex structure. [Le Figaro 11/28/06, CFHT 11/27/06]


ESA and Google Earth are teaming up to add satellite imagery of natural phenomena and man-made landmarks to the Google Earth three-dimensional mapping program. The images were collected by ESA’s Envisat environmental satellite and will be added to the “featured content” box of the highly popular software. The imagery will allow users to further explore places such as the Straits of Gibraltar or the Palm Islands in Dubai. The Envisat satellite, launched in 2002, uses highly sensitive radars to map the Earth, profile the ocean, monitor land use and measure types of vegetation. [ESA 11/16/06, International Herald Tribune 11/17/06]


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.