The Jason-3 satellite will be shipped to Vandenberg June 18, in time for a late-July/early-August launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 following a nine-day delay that turned out to have been unnecessary.
Airbus Safran Launchers has submitted its formal bid to design and build the Ariane 6 rocket, a contract to be valued at around 3.2 billion euros that the European Space Agency hopes to sign by the end of June.
The principal beneficiaries of the government program have been France’s two main satellite prime contractors, Airbus Defence and Space, and Thales Alenia Space.
European space hardware builders and some individual European governments are pressuring the European Commission to revamp the way it does space research and technology as it prepares a seven-year program with the promise of 1.4 billion euros in available cash.
After European ministers finalized plans for future launch vehicles in 2014, CNES plans to focus in 2015 on climate science in advance of a major climate change conference in Paris late in the year.
CNES signed the first of a planned three contracts for the U.S.-French Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite, a mission in which the two governments plan to invest some $1.1 billion for a launch in 2020.
CNES said it has begun a small technology research program with Germany and other governments to develop a future liquid oxygen/methane-powered rocket stage that would be reusable.
CNES officials said early tests of the Loon project persuaded the agency that the Google idea, while “appearing crazy,” was feasible and merited a closer look.