ESA Science Director, David Southwood, and CNES Assistant Director General for Science, José Achache, have signed a cooperative agreement on the Corot and Microscope science missions.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is to participate in two science missions
developed by the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES, the French space
agency). Corot and Microscope will form part of ESA’s mandatory science
programme. The agreement was signed in the ESA/CNES pavilion at the Paris
Air Show.

ESA’s contribution of 2 million euros to the Corot mission will provide for the
telescope’s optics and test facilities. CNES costs come to 54 million euros.
CNES’s other programme partners are Germany, Austria, Belgium, Spain,
Italy and SSD ESTEC. CNES’s European partners will therefore be
contributing nearly half the Corot payload. This agreement will open up the
mission to scientists throughout ESA Member States. The satellite is due for
launch in late 2004.

ESA’s participation in the Microscope mission comes to 5 million euros. ESA
will provide the FEEP (Filed Emission Electric Propulsion) ionic
microthrusters. This will be their first test in space.

Corot is an astronomy satellite flown on a Proteus satellite bus. It is part of
CNES’s small missions programme and has two scientific goals – to
investigate the internal structure of stars by observing their natural oscillation
modes, and to seek planets similar to Earth around nearby stars.

Microscope is a CNES microsatellite project designed to test a principle of
fundamental physics—the equivalence of gravitational and inertial
mass—with an accuracy of 10-15, three orders of magnitude better than
ground-based measurements. Microscope will also test drag-free satellite
technology in orbit. Microscope’s payload consists of a set of highly sensitive
differential accelerometers developed by ONERA, the French aerospace
research centre.