Status Report

Key week for  European Space activities

By SpaceRef Editor
November 16, 2005
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Key week for  European Space activities

This second week of November has, by the conjuncture of events, become a key week for European space at the end-product ‘Nuts and Bolts’ level – that of successfully launching satellites into space.

The policy level, of course, gets its turn in the spotlight end November/beginning December, with meetings of the Space Council (28 November) and an ESA Council Meeting at ministerial level (5/6 December).

Tuesday 8th November evening our time, the EADS/Astrium-built INMARSAT 4 F2 was successfully launched from a platform in the Pacific by a ‘Sea-launch’ vehicle (a Ukrainian ‘ZENIT’ launcher marketed by Boeing, with Norwegian and UK investment in the launch platform). This satellite is optimised for broadband mobile communications, and is the second of three European-built satellites of a new generation to be launched by the London-based INMARSAT mobile satellite systems organisation.

Wednesday 9th November morning, at 0430h CET, a Soyuz/Fregat vehicle, similar to the configuration intended for launch from Kourou from 2008, launched the ESA Venus Express spacecraft from Baikonur, Khazakstan. The flight to Venus will take 155 days, arriving in early April 2006, the first time since ten years that a satellite has been sent to the planet – and, of course, the first European mission there. The satellite has been placed into its interplanetary trajectory, solar panels have been deployed, so far all systems are performing as expected : the first commands have been uplinked from the mission contol room and received by the spacecraft through its low gain antenna. The satellite is closely based on the successful Mars Express vehicle, both in terms of the basic satellite and the ‘suite’ of experiments carried, adapted to the hot and harsh environment of Venus.

Wednesday 9th November: ceremony at ESA’s Technical Centre at Noordwijk saw the first satellite of the GALILEO navigation system, the European Union’s first ‘flagship’ satellite system, named ‘Giove-A’ by the Netherlands Transport Minister, Karla Peijs. The satellite, built by Surrey Satellite Technology of the UK, is due for launch by the end of the year; it is intended to generate a timing and navigation signal to ensure the availability from the International Telecommunications Union of the frequencies which have been adopted for the GALILEO constellation, and to initiate in-orbit tests supporting the GALILEO development programme.

Thursday 10th November saw the turn of the second ‘flagship’ programme, Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) to fall under the spotlight. The European Commission approved the first concrete steps for implementing the programme, selecting from 11 identified service areas the three initial services to be provided on a pilot basis: Emergency Management, Land Monitoring and Marine Services.

Saturday/Sunday 12/13th November (nominal 20:44h Saturday at Kourou, 00:44h of the morning of Sunday 13th CET): last but not least, this week planned launch of an ARIANE-5 ECA, the current top of the range model, carrying two communications satellites: SPACEWAY 2, for the DIRECTV operator of the US, and TELKOM-2, for the Indonesian satellite operator.

This second qualification launch of the ECA configuration marks the return of ARIANE to systematic double launches of communications satellites, in the past, the key to the commercial success of the ARIANE-4 vehicle, and essential to the future competitiveness on the commercial market of ARIANE-5.

SpaceRef staff editor.