January 22, 2009

Space challenges for France and Europe

France initiated its space programme in the early 1960s, driven by the desire to assure an independent national capability to launch space systems and apply space technologies.

This desire was soon fulfilled, making France the world’s third and Europe’s first spacefaring nation.

Shifts in the geopolitical balance of power since the 1960s have simply reinforced the strategic value of independent access to space for France and Europe. This capability assures Europe’s security and defence (through intelligence, crisis prevention and management), the well-being of its citizens (underpinning applications like telecommunications, satellite navigation and telemedicine), sustainable stewardship of its environment (through enhanced understanding and anticipation of climate change, water resource management, and monitoring of deforestation and desertification) and the furtherance of scientific knowledge (of the Universe and fundamental physics).

The way France’s space sector is organized gives the public sector, through CNES, the necessary engineering expertise to evaluate projects proposed by contractors, thereby guaranteeing that needs and costs are closely aligned.

French space activities underpin a strong industrial fabric of some 100 SMEs and 3 large groups—EADS, Thales Alenia Space and Safran—employing a total workforce of nearly 12,000 people.

Worldwide, space is a market worth €90 billion and growing at an annual rate of 7%.

In the face of strong competition from emerging space powers, Europe’s space industry is holding its own thanks to the excellent performance and reliability of its systems. CNES is helping it to stay competitive through a range of programmes that is continuously seeking to nurture innovation.

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