Status Report

France-in-Space # 376

By SpaceRef Editor
April 8, 2007
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The European Commission announced yesterday, April 4th, that it has officially cleared the proposed acquisition by Thales of Alcatel’s shareholdings in the joint ventures Alcatel Alenia Space of France and Telespazio of Italy, currently jointly controlled by Alcatel and Finmeccanica. Thales is the leading producer of Traveling Wave Tubes (TWTs), an essential component of telecommunications satellites, whereas Alcatel Alenia Space is a leading satellite manufacturer. The Commission officially opened an investigation in November 2006 to determine whether the merger of the two entities would restrict access to TWTs to its satellite and satellite subsystem competitors. The in-depth investigation found that the new Thales – Alcatel joint venture’s ability and incentive to limit access would be very limited. According to Neelie Kroes, Competition Commissioner, the Commission “is satisfied that the existing strong competition on the markets for telecommunications satellites and subsystems will not be adversely affected.” Through the proposed transaction, Thales would acquire Alcatel’s 67% shareholding in Alcatel Alenia Space and its 33% shareholding in Telespazio. In exchange, Alcatel will hold 60% of the new entity. [European Commission 04/04/07, /1/hi/business/4878810.stm 04/05/07]


A team of scientists hailing from Sweden, France, Canada, and Finland have discovered molecular oxygen in interstellar space, in much smaller quantities, however, than star formation models predicted. Using the Odin Space Observatory researchers painstakingly studied both celestial bodies and the Earth’s atmosphere. The observations that led to the discovery were made during 33 days over a period from August 2002 to February 2006. Careful analysis of the collected data found the spectral line for molecular oxygen in a dense gas cloud in the constellation Ophiuchus, which is approximately 500 light years from Earth. Nevertheless, the O2 abundance is a thousand times lower than can be explained by current chemical models. One of the primary goals of this research is to use spectral line data from molecular oxygen and water to study star formation. The Odin Space Observatory is equipped with a 1.1-meter diameter radio telescope operating in the millimeter and submilimeter wavelength ranges and was launched on February 20th, 2001. Odin was built by the Swedish Space Corp., which is also in charge of its operations, on behalf of the Swedish National Space Board in collaboration with CNES, CSA and the Finnish Space Committee. [Swedish Space Corp. 03/27/07, Aviation Week 04/02/07]


Representatives from ESA and NASA met on March 21st in Washington, DC, to sign a new “Network and Operations Cross-support” agreement, extending the two agencies’ cooperation in areas such as bi-directional Telemetry, Tracking and Command (TT&C) services, space navigation and mission operations and ground data systems services. This new agreement covers services for missions where no specific Memorandum of Understanding is in place. Support of this kind had been provided in the past but had been limited to the sharing of ground tracking stations and was specially arranged for each separate mission through a Letter of Agreement (LoA), which was often a long process. According to Dr. Manfred Warhaut, Head of ESA’s Mission Operations Department, “the agreement means ESA and NASA can provide each other network support and space operations services more quickly.[…] The sharing of resources is a sensible and efficient way to achieve enhanced space science value in an era of tight budgets.” [ESA 04/02/07]


Arianespace announced April 2nd that it will be launching two satellites for Intelsat in the third quarter of 2007. An Ariane 5 will launch both the Horizons-2 satellite for Horizons Satellite LLC (a joint venture between Intelsat and JSAT) and the Intelsat-11 for Intelsat from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou. Horizons-2, based on Orbital Science’s STAR satellite platform, will deliver services ranging from digital video, high-definition television (HDTV) and IP-based content distribution networks to broadband Internet and satellite news services across the continental United States, the Caribbean and parts of Canada. Intelsat-11, also built by Orbital Sciences, will offer direct-to-home broadcasting and data networking services to Latin America. This is the first time that a single satellite operator has entrusted two satellites to a launch provider for a simultaneous launch, a clear sign of the confidence the company has in Arianespace. Financial details of the contract were not released. [Arianespace 04/02/07, Agence France Presse 04/02/07]


ESA and the country of New Zealand have reached an arrangement for the installation of a transportable telemetry station which will be used to track the Ariane 5 launcher that will carry ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) on its inaugural flight. In order to launch the ATV and place it in a 260 km circular orbit, inclined 51.6 degrees to the equator the Ariane 5 launcher had to be specifically adapted. The mission analysis for this specific Ariane 5 flight made it clear that additional monitoring over southern Oceania was needed in order to observe the separation of the ATV, its injection into the target orbit and the third ignition of the Ariane 5’s upper stage. ESA carefully examined the geography of this area and after in-depth analysis chose a site in the Awarua area of Invercargill as it offers excellent visibility of the trajectory. Preparatory work at the site began in January 2007 with the entire construction representing an investment of over 200,000 euros, funded by ESA. The new tracking station will be leased by CNES / Guiana Space Center and supplied and operated by the OTB-Overberg Test Range, South Africa, under a CNES contract. [ESA 03/29/07, Le Figaro 03/30/07]

** 6: IN BRIEF

Telesat’s Anik F3 satellite, designed and built by Astrium Satellites, has been mated with the Proton Breeze M upper stage in preparation for its April 10th launch from Baikonur. Astrium Satellites acted as prime contractor for the telecommunications satellite and is responsible for launch and early operations as part of the in-orbit delivery contract. Anik F3 will offer broadcasting, telecommunications, business communications and Internet-based services across North America. [EADS Astrium 03/30/07]

Officials from Eutelsat Communications of Paris stated this week that their Hot Bird 2 satellite has suffered no noticeable damage after being hit by solar flare fallout on March 14th. An anomaly had been found in the satellite’s power subsystem forcing all traffic to be subsequently transferred to the Hot Bird 8 spacecraft; it appears now, however, that the satellite is fully functional. In all likelihood, traffic will not be transferred back to Hot Bird 2 until the next equinox as a precautionary measure. [Aviation Week 04/02/07]

Russia has signed on to provide a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer for ESA’s BepiColombo Mercury probe, which will be built by prime contractor EADS Astrium and launched in 2013. Russian scientists were also invited to submit proposals for ESA’s new Cosmic Vision science program. [Aviation Week 04/02/07] For more information on the BepiColombo mission please see France In Space #371.

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

France In Space is available online at There you will find the current issue, subscription and un-subscription forms, as well as the archives with a search engine.

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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.