French Joint Space Command On Schedule to Open in July

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The French Defense Ministry is on track to create a Joint Space Command by July 1, the director of the new entity said April 19. This will give Europe’s premier space power a single point of contact for negotiations with partners on the six program areas for which it will have responsibility: Earth observation, signals intelligence, space situational awareness, missile warning, military satellite telecommunications and space-based navigation.

French air force Brig. Gen. Yves Arnaud said one of his main objectives is to further push France’s existing space capabilities down the chain of command to make them more easily accessible by tactical deployed forces.

France has a well-developed military satellite communications and optical surveillance capability, but many of its military commanders remain unaware of what these systems can contribute to France’s military effort.

Similarly, he said, France lacks armed forces personnel who have “a global vision about space” and are well-versed in how different space assets can be brought together to add value to the military effort.

The creation of a Space Command was one of the recommendations made in a 2008 White Paper on Defense produced by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Another policy objective was that France’s military space effort of about 380 million euros ($509 million) per year be doubled “in the coming years.”

With the French economy’s downturn amid the global recession, Arnaud said it would be “a big challenge” to realize a doubling of military space spending anytime soon. Development of an operational signals interception satellite, called Ceres, also appears to be on hold, along with a missile-warning satellite. Both have received lukewarm responses from France’s prospective European partners.