Status Report

France in Space #375

By SpaceRef Editor
April 1, 2007
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ESA and OHB-System AG, of Germany, officially announced the signature of a 100-million euro framework contract today for the development of the European Small Geostationary Satellite (“Small Geo”) platform for use in telecommunications missions. The contract covers the first phase of the Small Geo initiative which will attempt to define this general purpose small geostationary satellite platform. ESA has created a new element (“ARTES 11”) under its ARTES (Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems) program to facilitate the development of the Small Geo mission. The first phase of the program will be devoted to the development and manufacture of the first flight model of a generic bus, work that is included in the newly signed contracted. The bus will be capable of accommodating a payload mass of up to 300 kg and will have a projected lifetime of 15 years. The second phase concerns the development, manufacture and launch of a first satellite mission to act as an in-orbit demonstration for the platform. The inaugural mission payload should be selected by the end of 2007 or early 2008. OHB heads the Small Geo consortium, which also includes LuxSpace (Luxembourg), the Swedish Space Corporation (Sweden) and Oerlikon Space (Switzerland); an industrial cooperation agreement between OHB and these companies was also signed on March 28th, 2007. [ESA 03/28/07]


At a meeting in Brussels on March 22nd, European Union Transport ministers set themselves a firm deadline of June 7th to decide whether the Galileo program’s current private-public co-financing system can be saved or if it should be abandoned. This new stance seems to echo the position that the European Commission has also adopted. In a statement released on March 22nd, transportation ministers asked that the Commission “assess progress in the concession negotiations and to submit alternative scenarios, also assessed for costs, risks and affordability, for the forthcoming June council meeting.” The ministers also told the eight-member industry consortium to put an end to the infighting and resume negotiations immediately with the Commission’s GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) Supervisory Authority; the consortium now has until May 10th to settle their differences and name a director. Partly in response to this pressure, Galileo’s concession group incorporated a Galileo Operating Company, in Toulouse France, on March 21st. The company still lacks, however, a chief executive to unite and speak on behalf of its eight member companies. Galileo Operating Company is made up of Alcatel-Lucent, Thales, Hispasat, Inmarsat, AENA, Finmeccanica, Deutsche Telekom and EADS. Jacques Barrot, European Transport Commissioner, remained stern with the company and has given it until May 10th to select a chief executive and until September 15th to make sufficient progress in negotiating the contract with GNSS to allow for a preliminary agreement to be signed. [Space News 03/26/07, International Herald Tribune 03/23/07, Agence France Presse 03/26/07]


It is expected that the European Commission will issue a ruling this spring on use of the S-band spectrum which may pave the way to approval in Brussels. Currently, at least two companies, a joint venture between SES Global and Eutelsat and TerreStar Global Ltd., are bidding for large portions of the S-band spectrum over Europe. Services using the S-band frequencies are yet to be offered as many regulatory and business-model issues must still be resolved. Currently, each nation decides how to split the spectrum, as well as how many actors can be accommodated. By late spring, the European Commission should be releasing a proposal in an attempt to harmonize the S-band frequencies. The establishment of the SES Global / Eutelsat joint venture, announced in October 2006, had in fact been slowed by unanswered regulatory questions. Both companies have agreed to invest 130 million euros in total to fit Eutelsat’s W2A satellite, scheduled for launch in 2009, with an S-band antenna, a business both companies deemed to risky to attempt alone. [Space News 03/26/07]


CNES has named two industry professionals to manage the agency’s centers in Toulouse and French Guiana. Marc Pircher, who is currently technical director at Alcatel Alenia Space, will become director of CNES’ Toulouse Space Center. He replaces Pierre Moskwa, who is retiring. Joel Barre, presently acting as director of the Snecma Motors Division, part of SAFRAN Group, will be director of the Guiana Space Center. He replaces Jean-Louis Marce, who is also retiring. For Mr. Barre, this is a return to CNES, as he served as director of programs at the agency from 1997 to 2001. Both nominations will take effect July 1st, 2007. [CNES 03/21/07, Agence France Presse 03/21/07, Space News 03/26/07]


France became the first country last week to completely open its files regarding UFO sightings to the public. On March 22nd, CNES unveiled a new website granting visitors access to the GEIPAN (Group for Study and Information on Non-identified Aerospace Phenomenon) archives, which include more than 1,600 sightings spanning five decades. Although other countries collect similar data it is usually only available on a case by case basis. Unfortunately, the website was a victim of its own success and crashed host servers only a few hours after its unveiling due to very heavy traffic. Those who are able to access the website will not be disappointed as it is well organized and complete and even includes (in some cases) scanned copies of the original police reports. [Agence France Presse 03/22/07, 03/26/07]

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.