Decided by President Emmanuel Macron at the beginning of last year and outlined publicly by the Minister for Armed Forces on 25 July 2019 at Lyon Mont-Verdun air base, the national military space strategy has since entered its implementation phase with the direct involvement of CNES. One of its most emblematic measures is the creation on 3 September 2019 of a new Space Command (CDE), which the minister decided to locate at the CST to take full advantage of all possible synergies with CNES.
CNES is thus set to play a key role enabling the armed forces to acquire the skills they will need to perform space operations, including new capabilities required to defend France’s interests in space, actively where necessary. At this stage, 30 military staff from the CDE have been deployed at the CST and these numbers will be scaled up over time to build a cadre of some 400 personnel by 2025. Alongside operational aspects, CNES is also closely involved in planning the future capabilities envisioned in the military space strategy. For example, it has oversight and prime contract responsibility for the Yoda orbital space surveillance demonstrator planned for launch end 2023.
During their visit, the MPs were given a tour of the facilities at CNES for controlling military and dual-use satellites in low Earth orbit, in particular the COR centre operating the network of antennas through which satellites communicate with the ground, the COO operational orbit determination centre that computes satellite orbits and the CPCC tasking and command-control centre for the CSO military reconnaissance satellite, which receives and processes tasking requests, uplinks work plans to the satellite and keeps a check on its health. A visit to the CEQI image quality expertise centre gave the MPs a glimpse of the work CNES is doing to permanently support the armed forces with high-quality satellite imagery. They were also given a presentation of the CIC concurrent engineering centre, a collaborative innovation platform where CNES is applying agile methods to serve the military’s space capability requirements in responsive fashion.