50 years ago, on 20 May 1952, the successful launch of Véronique, France’s first sounding rocket, crowned early efforts to develop space propulsion technologies.

CNES recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, but France’s space ambitions go back further than that, to the day 50 years ago when its first sounding rocket, Véronique, was launched on 20 May 1952.

Véronique successfully reached its intended altitude of 70 kilometres. Although only designed to study the upper atmosphere, Véronique was the precursor for France’s nascent space programme and in March 1959 an enhanced Véronique AGI rocket rose above the atmosphere to an altitude of 210 kilometres. Véronique lifted off from the Hammaguir launch base in the Algerian desert, where the first Diamant launcher carrying the A-1 “Astérix” satellite was also to be launched in 1965, making France the third nation to attain space power status. Diamant’s engines were derived from Véronique and would later serve as the foundation for Ariane propulsion technologies.

Indeed, Véronique was the trailblazer for Europe’s Ariane launch vehicle programme, inaugurating in 1968 the Kourou space centre in French Guiana that is now Europe’s spaceport. Véronique was also developed at Vernon, northern France, where the engines for Ariane 5 are produced today.


For further information, contact CNES Media Relations

Julien Guillaume Ð Phone: 33 (0)1 44 76 76 87 Ð Fax: 33 (0)1 44 76 78 16 julien.guillaume@cnes.fr

Or see the CNES websites at www.cnes.fr and www.cnes-tv.net