Status Report

France-in-Space #386

By SpaceRef Editor
August 23, 2007
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It was reported this week that EADS, Thales and Finmeccanica have reached an agreement in principle on the sharing of responsibilities for the development and implementation of the troubled Galileo satellite navigation system. A high-level meeting was held at the end of July where Tom Enders and François Auque for EADS, Denis Ranque and Pascale Sourisse for Thales and Pier Francescco Guarguaglini for Finmeccanica met to discuss the issue. The goal was to finalize the principles of the industrial cooperation and to prepare a proposition intended for the European Commission and the European Space Agency. The agreement in principle is a sign of the three companies? desire to see the Galileo system come to fruition. Concretely, they will share the responsibility of prime contractor, with EADS Astrium handling the satellites and Thales and Finmeccanica handling the ground stations. The Galileo system is expected to cost 3.4 billion euros. The European Union is expected to decide in October how it plans on financing the Galileo project after the 8-member consortium formed to develop the program was reluctant to make good on its obligation to finance two-thirds of it. [Les Echos 08/22/07, AFX News Ltd. 08/22/07]


Arianespace successfully placed two communications satellites into geostationary transfer orbit on Tuesday, August 14th. The third Ariane 5 ECA launch of the year, and 19th consecutive success, lofted the SPACEWAY 3 and BSAT-3a for Hughes Network Systems LLC and Lockheed Martin Commercial Satellite Systems for B-SAT of Japan, respectively. SPACEWAY 3, built by Boeing Satellite Systems, Inc., is equipped with 68 Ka-band transponders and will provide broadband services for corporations, small businesses, government agencies and individuals throughout North America and parts of Latin America. BSAT-3A was built by Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems for the Broadcasting Satellite System Corporation of Japan. The satellite is outfitted with twelve 130-watt Ku-band channels, with only eight operating simultaneously, and is designed to provide direct digital TV links throughout Japan. It will be used primarily by NHK, Japan?s largest broadcasting company. The next Ariane 5 launch, which will carry INTELSAT 11 and OPTUS D2, is scheduled for the end of September 2007. Arianespace currently has a backlog of 42 satellites to be launched. [Arianespace 08/14/07, Aviation Week 08/20-27/07]


As Hurricane Dean rips its way across Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, two ESA satellites are tracking its every move. Instruments carried by the Envisat and ERS-2 satellites are allowing researchers and meteorologists to look through the storm to gather information on the storm?s cloud structure, wind and wave fields, sea surface temperature and sea surface height. Data such as this gives weather forecasters a means to judge the strength of the hurricane and the path it may take. The Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) optical instrument images the swirling cloud formations of the hurricane, while the radar instruments such as the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar examines the shape of the sea surface to estimate the damage it may inflict on the coastline. The ERS-2 satellite?s radar scatterometer is especially precious to researchers as its C-band radar frequency is more or less unaffected by heavy rain, meaning that it can send back useful wind data even from the center of the most violent storms. Processed ERS-2 scatterometer images are provided to meteorologists within the hour. The U.S. National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is using Envisat RA-2 data, in addition to data from other space-borne altimeters, to chart tropical cyclone heat potential (TCHP), the thermal energy of warm water which partly powers a hurricane, in order to improve the accuracy of hurricane forecasting. [ESA 08/21/07]


The first experimental hybrid propulsion rocket in the PERSEUS (Programme Etudiant de Recherche Spatiale Européen Universitaire et Scientifique) program was launched on August 1st from the Courtine military base in France. The launch campaign was organized by CNES and the scientific association Planète Sciences. CNES? space research program for European university and science students was developed to encourage young people to choose a career in the space field by establishing original collaborations between students, aerospace clubs, volunteers, and CNES, ONERA (the French national office for aerospace studies and research) and COMAT Aerospace (an SME located in Toulouse, France). Students taking part in the program design and develop a nano-satellite launcher. Production and testing is then handed over to small and medium-sized companies in France. The goal of the program is to conceive a launcher capable of placing a 10-kilo payload into a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 250 km, by 2015. [CNES 08/03/07]


It was reported this week that Galileo officials announced to a joint committee meeting of Cospas-Sarsat (International Satellite System for Search and Rescue) that the new European satellite navigation system will relay distress signals to SAR organizations. Moreover, Galileo will play a key role in Meosar, the Medium Earth Orbit Search And Rescue program. The Meosar program would equip satellites in medium Earth orbit with payloads capable of receiving distress signals from beacons on Earth and dispatch them to rescue organizations. Cospas-Sarsat has already placed systems on satellites operating in low Earth and geostationary orbit. One obvious benefit of the Galileo satellites in medium Earth orbit will be their ability to send return messages to the emergency beacons thus notifying victims that their calls have been received. [Aviation Week 08/20-27/07]

** 6: IN BRIEF

When NASA?s Phoenix Mars Lander finally reaches the Red Planet in May 2008, ESA?s Mars Express Orbiter, already in orbit around the planet, will track its descent and landing phase as part of greater international cooperation in exploration missions. The initial 13-minute relay task could be extended to cover the entirety of Phoenix?s 90-day mission as NASA?s communications network is already stretched thin. Mars Express will utilize a communications system developed for the failed Beagle lander for the task. [Aviation Week 08/20-27/07]


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: Emmanuel de Lipkowski, 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.