France in Space #384

Status Report From: The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR)
Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2007


An international team of scientists, led by Giovanna Tinetti, an ESA fellow at the Institut d?Astrophysique of Paris, has discovered for the first time the presence of water vapor in the atmosphere of an extrasolar planet. The discovery was made using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and analyzing the transit of the planet HD 189733b, a gas giant, across its star in the infrared. HD 189733b, first discovered in 2005, is 63 light-years away in a constellation baptized Vulpecula. Observations of the infrared bands as the planet passed in front of its parent star revealed a different, unique pattern, one that only water molecules could create. Although HD 189733b's atmosphere is far too hostile to support any type of life, this recent discovery increases the chances of finding water vapor on rocky planets, closer to the size of Earth, where life may exist. The French-led COROT Space Telescope, expected to detect gas giant planets, may also play an important role in finding these rocky, Earth-sized planets. [ESA 07/11/07, Aviation Week 07/16/07]


The French government recently approved the creation of two new aerospace research clusters to complement the main cluster, known as Aerospace Valley, located in southwest France. The first cluster, Pegase, will focus on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, airships, helicopters and other light aircraft for surveillance, telecommunications, transportation and security applications. To be based in Provence, it will be spearheaded by Eurocopter, Thales Alenia Space, Dassault Aviation and the French defense research agency Onera.

The second cluster, Astech, will be dedicated to business aviation, aircraft engines and satellite launch systems. To be located near Paris, the center will bring together Dassault, Safran Group, EADS Astrium, and Arianespace, among others. The three clusters, Pegase, Astech and Aerospace Valley, will benefit from more than 500 million euros in public funds which were specifically allocated for the cluster program. [Aviation Week 07/16/07]


It appears that France has reevaluated its plan to block a $500 million to $1 billion radar/optical reconnaissance network proposed for the Gulf Cooperation Council, the political and economic alliance, founded in 1981, uniting six Gulf States: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain. France had initially deemed the technology needed for such a system too sensitive for export. Officials from Thales Alenia Space have stated that they are bidding a dual-sensor system whose radar segment will be built by both the company's Italian and French units (radar and optical segments, respectively). Thales Alenia's proposal would use a pair of satellites based on the Italian Prima bus and the French Proteus bus. The Franco-Italian radar/optical reconnaissance program using France's Pleiades satellites and Italy's Cosmo-SkyMed network will offer 0.7 to 0.8 meter resolution for both civil and defense use. Italy has already authorized the export of Cosmo-SkyMed's synthetic aperture radar to South Korea for use its Kompsat-5 satellite. [Aviation Week 07/16/07]


The European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System (EGNOS) recently completed a series of successful trials in Lausanne, Switzerland, where it was used to guide a helicopter as it approached and landed at an emergency medical center's landing pad. The trial approaches were designed by Skyguide, the Swiss air navigation services provider, for 6° and 9° approach angles. Initial results indicate that, despite the steep nature of the approaches, they were not difficult to fly thanks to the three-dimensional guidance from EGNOS. Vertical guidance for the pilot is just one advantage EGNOS offers over standard GPS. These most recent trials were carried out as part of the GNSS Introduction in the AviatioN sector (GIANT) project. GIANT is a European Commission Sixth Framework Program (FP6) project with the goal of supporting the introduction of EGNOS and Galileo services into the aviation market, all the while demonstrating to authorities that the required safety levels have been achieved. EGNOS is a joint program between ESA, the European Commission and Eurocontrol. It is made up of a network of over forty elements spread over Europe that collect, record, and improve data from the U.S. GPS. The ameliorated signals are then relayed via geostationary satellites to user terminals and offer a positional accuracy of better than two meters, compared with 15 to 20 meters for GPS alone. [ESA 07/18/07]


Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle, baptized Jules Verne, left ESA's ESTEC facilities Monday evening and embarked on its journey to the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. Only tens days after completing its final integration and space environment tests at the ESA center, the ATV was carefully loaded into three large containers which then set out for Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Jules Verne set sail on Tuesday aboard the French cargo ship MN Toucan, a ship normally used by Arianespace to transport Ariane rocket components to Kourou. The entire trip should take approximately eleven days. Jules Verne, weighing 20 tons and the size of a double-decker bus, is the largest spacecraft ever built in Europe. It will be used to transport cargo to the International Space Station and correct the station's orbit, when necessary.


France In Space is a weekly synthesis of French space activities based on French press. Its content does not reflect an official position of the French Government or CNES. It is provided by the CNES office and the Office of Science and Technology of the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. Editors: Emmanuel de Lipkowski, Noëlle Miliard and Timothée Verwaerde

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About CNES

"CNES develops and leads national space programmes. The main thrust of its action is to serve France's ambition to sustain a strong space capability and contribute to scientific discovery at the highest levels. CNES is committed to fostering innovative space technologies that meet the current and future needs of society. Most programmes are pursued in cooperation with international partners. CNES also plays a central role in programmes initiated by ESA, the European Space Agency, to which it is a major contributor. It is thus a driving force behind ESA programmes and activities".

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