Status Report

France in Space # 387

By SpaceRef Editor
August 30, 2007
Filed under , ,


Instruments aboard two ESA satellites have been put to use to track the wildfires that are currently plaguing Greece and southern Europe. The Along Track Scanning Radiometer (ATSR) aboard ESA?s ERS-2 satellite and the Advanced Along Track Scanning Radiometer (AATSR) on ESA?s Envisat satellite measure thermal infrared radiation, hence taking the temperature of Earth?s land surfaces. Temperatures exceeding 38.85 degrees Celsius are classified as burning fires by AATSR; using this data, researchers create worldwide fire maps which are available to users online, in near-real time, thanks to ESA?s ATSR World Fire Atlas (WFA). Images of smoke plumes were also captured over Greece?s southern Peloponnese peninsula using Envisat?s Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS). These images are available to the general public within two hours of being processed on ESA?s MIRAVI (MERIS Images RApid VIsualization) website. Access to images on the MIRAVI website is free and does not require registration. [ESA 08/27/06]


A proposal was made to the European Commission last Wednesday, August 22nd that would simplify the licensing process for companies seeking to provide satellite-to-mobile phone communications services. European regulators suggested that companies only be required to have one EU-wide license, thus reducing the cost of applying for authorization in each of the 27 EU member states. The proposal would also effectively undo national monopolies on the management of the radio spectrum and make the European Commission the clearinghouse for satellite companies seeking permission to offer such telecommunications services in Europe. The EU has not set a cap on the number of licenses it would grant and has made it clear that any fees for the licenses would be paid to national governments and not to the European Union. SES Astra of Luxembourg and Eutelsat Communications of Paris announced last year that they would join together to launch satellite services that would send broadcasts to mobile devices and cars, as well as offer mobile to mobile services. Thales Alenia Space is already in the process of building a 130-million-euro module that will be added to Eutelsat?s W2A satellite. The two companies already have permission from France to broadcast in the 2 gigahertz band. [International Herald Tribune 08/23/07]


A special attempt was made after the August 14th Ariane 5 ECA launch to recover the vehicle?s two solid rocket boosters from the Atlantic Ocean. In the end, only one booster was recovered and brought back to the Guiana Space Center for analysis. The booster will now undergo a series of painstaking tests to verify that all the materials are responding and holding up well. The analysis will primarily investigate the status of the new system of joints, inaugurated on this past launch. This sort of operation is carried out on a regular basis with the last test being done in 2003. Usually, solid rocket boosters are destined to sink to the bottom of the ocean however the two boosters used during Arianespace?s last launch campaign were equipped with parachutes to make their recovery easier; one of the parachutes however did not function correctly and only one was retrieved. [France Guyane 08/23/07, ESA 08/15/07]


The European Southern Observatory?s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has been outfitted with a new ?eye? to scan the heavens. The HAWK-I (High Acuity, Wide field K-band Imaging) instrument, capable of covering 1/10 the area of the Full Moon in a single exposure, took its first images on the night of July 31st to August 1st. HAWK-I takes images in the 0.9 to 2.5 micron domain over a large field of view of 7.5 x 7.5 arcminutes; this is an impressive nine times larger than images taken by ISAAC, another near-infrared imager on the VLT that entered operation in late 1998. ISAAC showed that deep near-infrared images can contribute to the discovery and study of large, distant galaxies, and to the study of discs around stars and even low mass objects. HAWK-I will expand upon this research as it is able to study much larger areas in excellent image quality. HAWK-I is the eleventh instrument to be installed at ESO?s VLT. [ 22/08/07]


Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA, and Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos, met on August 21st at the International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS 2007 held outside of Moscow (August 21st to 26th) to discuss future cooperation. On the agenda was the upcoming launch of Europe?s ATV in January 2008, as well as the launch of both GOCE and SMOS which will take place in spring and autumn 2008 from Plessetsk. Also of importance were discussions on the Crew Space Transportation System (CSTS) program (a.k.a. Advanced Crew Transportation System, ACTS). A special meeting on this subject has been scheduled for September 3rd to 6th between the two agency heads. [Air & Cosmos 08/24/07]


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.

To subscribe/unsubscribe, please go to


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.