CNES Conducts R&D Challenge for Future Launch Systems

PARIS (CNES PR) — On Wednesday, 24 June, research laboratories, start-ups, PMEs and other firms presented their work contributing to the launch systems of the future to a top-level audience. In all, €750,000 worth of CNES contracts were awarded to the laureates, which each received €50,000 or €100,000 to develop their solutions.

At its Innovation Day on 7 February in Toulouse, CNES announced a Launchers R&D Challenge under its Connect by CNES initiative, in partnership with ArianeGroup and ESA, designed to ease access to funding for launch systems.

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New International Ocean Satellite Completes Testing

Mission team members perform acoustic tests of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite in a chamber outfitted with giant speakers that blast the spacecraft with sound. This is to ensure that the high decibels associated with liftoff won’t damage the spacecraft. (Credit: Airbus)

A team of engineers in the U.S. and Europe subjected the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft to a battery of trials to ready it for liftoff later this year.


Once the state-of-the-art Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite launches in November, it will collect the most accurate data yet on sea level – a key indicator of how Earth’s warming climate is affecting the oceans, weather and coastlines. But first, engineers need to ensure that the spacecraft can survive the rigors of launch and of operating in the harsh environment of space. That’s where meticulous testing comes in.

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Major Space Agency Heads Hold Virtual Meeting

Translated from French by Google Translate

PARIS (CNES PR) — Tuesday, June 9, fifteen heads of space agencies from around the world (European Space Agency (ESA), Germany, Australia, Canada, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, France, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, News – Zealand, Russia, United Kingdom) participated, at the invitation of NASA, in a virtual meeting to exchange their points of view on the progress of human and robotic exploration. 

Because of COVID-19, this meeting could not be held, as every year, at the time of the Colorado Springs Space Symposium initially scheduled for the end of March. 

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NASA-CNES Surface Water Mission Remains on Cost, Schedule

SWOT satellite (Credit: NASA JPL)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A Franco-American mission to measure global surface water levels from space continues to hold to its budget and an April 2022 launch date despite the late arrival of its main scientific instrument, according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The $754.9 million Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission had been working toward a September 2021 launch date, which would have been seven months ahead of schedule.

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New ESA Partnership Project to Boost European Competitiveness

Artist’s impression of OneSat telecommunications satellite. (Credit: Airbus)

PARIS (ESA PR) — A fully reconfigurable, software-defined, standardized satellite for the commercial telecommunications market is under development, as an ESA Partnership Project. 

ESA has signed a contract with satellite manufacturer Airbus to develop and qualify OneSat, which will operate in a geostationary orbit.

The contract was negotiated under teleworking and remote meeting conditions due to the coronavirus pandemic. The timely conclusion of the negotiations demonstrates the strong commitment of all parties and the agility of the processes used to manage ESA Partnership Projects.

The Novacom 1 Partnership Project to build OneSat will be jointly managed by ESA and the French Space Agency, CNES.

OneSat is part of ESA’s programme of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES). Like previous Neosat Partnership Projects, it is expected to generate an exceptional return on investment to European industry and ESA Member States.

Smart Surfaces for Space Hygiene

PARIS (ESA PR) — While efforts continue to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus on Earth, a space-based experiment called Matiss has been investigating how ‘smart surfaces’ on the International Space Station could stop pathogens in their tracks. 

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CNES Directors Give Approval to Trishna, Space Inspire Programs

PARIS LES HALLES, France (CNES PR) — On Thursday, 12 March, CNES’s Board of Directors convened for its 362nd session at the agency’s Head Office in Paris Les Halles, giving the go-ahead to engage France in the development of the French-Indian Trishna programme and to pursue activities for the new Space Inspire series of flexible satellites, as well as development of equipment for the spacecraft bus and shared payload.

Trishna is a mission to deliver thermal-infrared imagery of Earth’s surface at high spatial and temporal resolution. Its observations will help to gain fresh insights into the water cycle and improve management of the planet’s water resources, at a time when the local impacts of climate change are being felt increasingly around the globe.

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Asteroid Ryugu Likely Link in Planetary Formation

Formation scenario for Ryugu. More than one year ago, the Japanese Hayabusa2 orbiter deployed the German lander, MASCOT, which investigated the approximately one-kilometre-diameter asteroid Ryugu. Scientists are now imagining the history of its formation 4.5 billion years ago. First, flakes and grains of dust formed in the disc of dust and gas rotating around the Sun (1), before porous planetesimals agglomerated due to the accretion of these loose flakes (2). Recent investigations suggest that Ryugu’s parent body hardly condensed and was also highly porous. This may have resulted in the formation of a firmer core, but scientists also believe that a gradual increase in density towards the centre of the parent body is conceivable (3). Impacts and collisions with other asteroids (4) led to a fragmentation of the parent body; the large boulders on Ryugu probably originated here. Part of the debris was then the source material for the accretion of Ryugu (5), with porous blocks and loose material, and also some more compact blocks of higher density from the original core, some of which remain on the surface. Ryugu‘s present diamondlike shape (6) occurred over time due to its rotation. (Credit: Okada et al. Nature 2020)
  • Infrared images show that Ryugu is almost entirely made up.
  • The asteroid was formed largely from fragments of a parent body that was shattered by impacts of highly porous material.
  • DLR scientists participate in the publication in the scientific journal Nature.

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — The Solar System formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago. Numerous fragments that bear witness to this early era orbit the Sun as asteroids. Around three-quarters of these are carbon-rich C-type asteroids, such as 162173 Ryugu, which was the target of the Japanese Hayabusa2 mission in 2018 and 2019. The spacecraft is currently on its return flight to Earth.

Numerous scientists, including planetary researchers from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), intensively studied this cosmic ‘rubble pile’, which is almost one kilometre in diameter and can come close to Earth. Infrared images acquired by Hayabusa2 have now been published in the scientific journal Nature. They show that the asteroid consists almost entirely of highly porous material.

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COVID-19: Guiana Space Center Suspends Launch Campaigns

KOUROU, French Guiana (Arianespace PR) — Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the need to fully implement the measures decided by the French government, launch campaigns underway at the Guiana Space Center (CSG) in French Guiana have been suspended.

These launch preparations will resume as soon as allowed by health conditions.

This exceptional measure is designed to protect the health of employees and the local population, while also maintaining the security needed to prepare for scheduled launches.

Arianespace, French space agency CNES and all companies involved at CSG are currently overseeing operations to place launchers and satellites in safe standby condition, in line with standard procedures.

Trump Administration Proposes Deep Cuts to NOAA Budget

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Trump Administration is proposing a 13.57 percent reduction in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) budget for fiscal year (FY) 2021, according to budget documents.

The $4.63 billion proposal would cut NOAA spending by $727.64 million below the FY 2020 budget. Although key satellite and commercial data purchasing programs would received increases, dozens of other programs would see their funding reduced or eliminated completely.

NOAA’s climate change research programs would be reduced by more than half from $169.5 million to $83.2 million. President Donald Trump has called global warming a hoax invented by the Chinese government to destroy the American economy.

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Japan’s Martian Moons Mission Gets Go Ahead

Artist impression of the MMX spacecraft. (Credit: JAXA)

Martian Moons EXploration (MMX) mission to explore moons, return soil sample from Phobos.

TOKYO (JAXA Program Update) — This week (19 February 2020), the MMX mission transitioned to become a JAXA Project: an official step in mission development authorised by the Japanese government. The mission was previously in the Pre-Project phase, where the focus was on research and analysis, such as simulating landings to improve spacecraft design. The focus will now move onto the development of mission hardware and software.

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Kinéis Raises 100 Million Euros, Finances Nanosat Internet of Things Constellation

SAINT-AGNES, France (Kineis PR) — Kinéis has reached its capital-raising target of 100 million euros [$110.6 million]. CLS, CNES, Bpifrance via the fund for Industrial Project Companies (SPI), financed by the ‘Investments for the Future’ Programme and the European Investment Bank, Ifremer, Thales, CELAD, BNP Paribas Développement, HEMERIA and other industrial and financial partners are investing in and supporting Kinéis’ ambition to provide universal satellite connectivity.

25 nanosatellites will be added to complement the service which has been provided by the Argos system to scientific and environmental communities for more than 40 years. Kinéis will also develop its activity in the new markets opened up by the IoT.

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Soyuz Booster to Launch COSMO-Skymed, Cheops, ANGELS, Eyesat and OPS-SAT

Replica of OPS-SAT (Credit: ESA–Stijn Laagland)

PARIS (CNES PR) — On Tuesday 17 December, Soyuz will lift off for the 23rd time from the Guiana Space Centre (CSG), Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana, carrying COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation for the Italian space agency ASI and the Italian Ministry of Defence, CHEOPS for the European Space Agency (ESA), ANGELS and EyeSat for CNES, and OPS-SAT for operator Tyvak on behalf of ESA.

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France Acquires Automatic 3D Geospatial Information Capability with AI4GEO

PARIS, December 10, 2019 (CNES PR) – The AI4GEO project to develop an automatic solution for producing 3D geospatial information, in which €30 million is to be invested over four years, is receiving €13.5 million in funding from the government’s PIA future investment programme led by the Secretariat General for Investment (SGPI) and operated by public investment bank Bpifrance. The signature of the contract marks France’s desire to acquire a 3D geospatial information capability at the cutting edge of innovation.

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Ariane 6 Parts Come Together, Europe’s Spaceport Prepares

Ariane 6 mobile gantry over the launch pad. (Credit: ESA)

KOUROU, French Guiana (ESA PR) — The first test models of Ariane 6 are being manufactured while Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, is preparing to test the launch vehicle and all systems involved with launch.

Details on the progress of activities for Ariane 6 were recently shared at the 70th International Astronautical Congress held in Washington, USA – downloadable here (.pdf).

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