Wednesday 3 April, ESA Director General Jan Wörner was at the Toulouse Space Centre to meet ESA teams working with those of CNES on the NEOSAT and EGNOS programmes. ESA Director of Science Günther Hasinger was also present to visit the facilities of the SVOM and Gaia programmes. CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall welcomed the delegation and took part in talks on ESA’s Cosmic Vision programme, which it is developing with CNES’s support.
NEOSAT is a cutting-edge research and development programme for geostationary telecommunications satellites. CNES and ESA are working together on NEOSAT to spin off the innovations needed to boost the competitiveness of Europe’s satellite equipment manufacturers and increase their market share. NEOSAT was initiated under the space budget line of the government’s PIA future investment plan and is being pursued through ESA’s ARTES14 programme. The programme’s main objective is to achieve a 30% reduction in the cost of in-orbit satellite capacity. The first commercial satellites from the two NEOSAT families will be launched late 2019 and 2020.
EGNOS is the first stage of Europe’s satellite navigation strategy, preceding the development of the Galileo system that has now built up a base of more than 700 million users. Its chief aim was to enhance satellite radionavigation service for critical safety-of-life applications, particularly civil aviation. Over the course of the next decade, EGNOS will augment Galileo’s performance, notably the integrity of its geolocation data in line with the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), to provide guidance for aircraft during landing.
SVOM (Space Variable Objects Monitor) is a joint mission of the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and CNES that is set to send aloft a satellite to observe gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) from a 600-km Earth orbit. GRBs are the highest-energy phenomena known in the Universe, generated from the explosion of massive stars and from the merger of compact objects like neutron stars or black holes. SVOM will be carrying four instruments, two of which were designed and built in France: ECLAIRs, a wide-field X-ray and gamma-ray camera; and MXT, a Microchannel X-ray Telescope. China is responsible for the launch in 2021, the satellite and operations, and shares responsibility with France for design and construction of the instruments and ground segment.
Gaia, launched on 19 December 2013, is pursuing the ambitious goal of mapping part of our galaxy. To obtain its measurements, Gaia is carrying two optical telescopes that enable it to precisely position celestial bodies and analyse their light spectrum. On 25 April 2018, Gaia reached the milestone of one billion stars observed in three dimensions and ESA issued the second Gaia data release, eagerly awaited by the scientific community. The third data release is planned for 2020.
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