What are the major space challenges awaiting France in 2022?

What are the major space challenges awaiting France in 2022

The National Center for Space Studies (CNES) celebrated its 60th anniversary last December. Quite a symbol since this structure was wanted by President de Gaulle to make France a space power, as recalled during the wishes of the CNES on January 11 its CEO, Philippe Baptiste.
No one can deny that this is still the case today, even if our country does not invest as much money in this area as the United States and cannot carry out major programs alone. They are developed either at European level or at international or bilateral level. But we must not forget that France remains the largest contributor to the European Space Agency (ESA).

Space is one of Emmanuel Macron’s priorities

France’s position is however threatened and its major players such as ArianeGroup or Arianespace are threatened on their ground. The sector is undergoing profound change with the arrival on the market of new private and innovative players, who are shaking up industry practices, such as SpaceX. Not to mention increased competition between countries, as well as the rise of China or the United Arab Emirates. In order not to be overshadowed, France will grant an additional windfall of 1.5 billion euros within the framework of France 2030, in addition to the 365 million euros of the recovery plan. The envelope will be dedicated to reusable mini-launchers, mini satellites, and constellations.

Because space is one of President Emmanuel Macron’s priorities. He sees it as an issue of national sovereignty and an opportunity for economic development. Several major events will mark out 2022.

Ariane 6: a maiden flight under high tension

It is a program of the European Space Agency (ESA) in which France is particularly involved via its industrialists and which should be the major event of 2022 for our country. The maiden flight of Ariane 6 is scheduled for the second half of 2022.
This light launcher is intended to replace Ariane 5, which had its success but which today seems too heavy and expensive to manufacture. Its successor must provide more flexibility, turn to new markets, and be more competitive thanks to lower costs.

It will therefore be flexible according to the mission. A first version is equipped with four boosters for large geostationary satellites, for example. But he can also make do with two boosters with much lower payload capacities. Finally, it will be able to carry out complex launches such as the orbiting of electrically powered satellites or the multiple launch of constellations, thanks to an upper stage equipped with a re-ignitable engine. Unfortunately, it is not reusable, which already makes it somewhat obsolete.
But it is essential for Europe and France that this first launch and the commercial development succeed so as not to lose even more share on the launcher market.

Exomars : a European program on Mars

Artist's impression of the European rover.

Another structuring ESA program for France. ExoMars revolves around two missions. First there was Trace Gas Orbiter, launched in 2016, and responsible for studying the gases of the red planet. It is the second part that will be deployed this year. It must land a rover and a surface platform that will explore the question of life on Mars by studying its atmosphere in particular. Our country provides many scientific instruments to the robot.

This is a first for Europe. In addition to the scientific interest of the mission, it is an opportunity to acquire new skills by developing and operating this “lander” and this Martian rover. Reusable know-how for other future missions.

The launch is scheduled for September 20 with an arrival on June 10, 2023 on Mars.

The full capabilities of Galileo

The launch into orbit of the Galileo satellites last December.

The European satellite positioning system Galileo will benefit from two new satellites in the first half of 2022, then two more in the second half. They will be launched by Arianespace from Kourou and will ensure for the first time the full operational capacity of the Galileo services.
The missions planned for 2023, 2024 and 2025 will improve the resilience of the constellation, which currently has 28 satellites, and which has been active since 2016.

Galileo claims to be currently the most accurate satellite navigation system in the world and already serving more than two billion users.

The space command strengthens its surveillance

The Ceres system.

Space is also a military issue for the French Ministry of the Armed Forces. The space command wanted by Emmanuel Macron will further strengthen its tools under the leadership of the DGA (General Directorate of Armaments).

The Syracuse 4B military satellite, part of the Syracuse IV program, is to be launched this year. It will thus join Syracuse 4A, launched in 2021. The idea is to form a constellation, so as to provide very long-distance communications capabilities to the armed forces wherever they are and whatever the situation, even in the event of crisis or natural disaster. These satellites are also designed to resist hostile jamming attempts and have sensors to detect the approach of debris or spy satellites.

On the observation side, it will be the turn of the CSO-3 satellite to be sent. It will complement the first two CSOs already deployed. This entire system will gradually replace the Helios 2 satellites currently in service. CSO should make it possible to collect a greater number of images of the same geographical area in a single flyover with better quality.

The three new military satellites of the CERES system will also enter service. They will be dedicated to signals intelligence and will provide global geographical coverage, in all weathers, day and night. It will become possible to characterize radar emissions or telecommunications from any area of ​​interest or conflict, so as to detect a threat.

2022 will be marked at the spatial level by many other events in which France will be a partner, such as two missions led by NASA: the launch of the Juice probe, bound for Jupiter, or the observation satellite Swot, which must measure the level surface waters.

It is also difficult not to mention the European reusable launcher project to which France is particularly attached and which is supposed to be completed by 2026. The project is still unclear and could be clarified during the ESA Ministerial Council, which will be held in Paris in November .