February 10, 2009

Expertise in Europe’s top three space nations

With CNES responsible for the development of Ariane on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA), France has acquired comprehensive know-how in launch systems unique in Europe today.
Chemcam instrument © CNES/Sébastien GIRARD, 2008
Chemcam instrument © CNES/Sébastien GIRARD, 2008



This expertise is essentially concentrated at the agency’s Launch Vehicles Directorate in Evry and at French space contractors, who are leading work on Ariane for which they manufacture roughly half of structural and engine elements.

The Toulouse Space Centre provides expertise in orbital systems, i.e., spacecraft buses, instruments and operations control, particularly for national satellite assets. Renowned for its prowess in optical Earth-imaging systems, France’s space industry caters for the full range of space applications, especially space telecommunications, and integrates a large number of satellites for commercial programmes in France and in Europe, as well as for international partners.


ATV docked on ISS © NASA/JSC/, 2008
ATV docked on ISS © NASA/JSC/, 2008



Germany is renowned for its expertise in storable liquid propulsion systems, such as those used for the 3rd stage of Ariane 5.

Germany is where most assembly work is done on the Automatic Transfer Vehicle (ATV) designed to resupply the International Space Station (ISS). It has also developed extensive capabilities for developing pressurized spaceflight modules such as Spacelab and Columbus.

Its efforts in Earth observation are focused on radar-imaging missions.



Vega launcher
Vega launcher



Italy is currently working to expand its competencies in launch systems and is leading development of the Vega launcher by Italian space contractors for the European Space Agency (ESA). Italian contractors supply the oxygen turbopump for Ariane’s cryogenic engine.

Italy’s space industry is also active in Earth radar-imaging systems and has the capability to build spacecraft buses.

Having contributed to various elements of the ISS, Italy is now turning its attention to Mars exploration programmes.