The French space agency, CNES, on Feb. 5 concluded its annual internal seminar on international outreach, a meeting that is as much an order of battle on behalf of France’s space industry as a review of future bilateral space-research partnerships.
French President Francois Hollande’s affirmation that intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance would be top priorities after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris comes at a time when France’s already-stressed defense budget is committed to major capital spending on three space programs.
The French government, determined that its industry not lose out on what might be a large new business in building low-orbiting satellite communications constellations, has issued a request for bids to industry for ideas on new components and manufacturing techniques.
After three years of near-obsessive focus on launch vehicles leading to the next-generation Ariane 6 rocket, France turns its attention to satellites.
The head of Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium on May 12 said the company can beat competitor SpaceX in the open market with a euro/dollar exchange rate at today’s levels and the planned 5-6 percent reduction in Ariane 5 rocket production and launch costs.
CNES awarded Airbus Defence and Space a contract worth 30 million euros to build the spacecraft platform and perform payload integration for the French-German Merlin methane-monitoring satellite.
Arianespace will use a Vega to launch Peru’s high-resolution optical reconnaissance satellite in the first half of 2016 under a contract signed March 25 with Airbus, the satellite’s builder.
The principal beneficiaries of the government program have been France’s two main satellite prime contractors, Airbus Defence and Space, and Thales Alenia Space.
French space minister Genevieve Fioraso on March 5 resigned from her position, citing health reasons that had been known for several months.
Just when it appeared as though European countries, despite all good intentions, were incapable of collaborating more closely on operational satellite programs, along comes word that Germany is buying into France’s next-generation optical satellite reconnaissance system.
European governments appear to have missed a big opportunity for costs savings with the French Defense Ministry’s decision to move ahead with plans to procure a pair of dedicated military communications satellites from a pair of domestic manufacturers.
The French Defense Ministry will order two military telecommunications satellites from French prime contractors in the coming weeks in a conventional procurement that likely will divide the work between Airbus Defence and Space, and Thales Alenia Space.