Monitoring France's Bilateral Space Relations
For over four decades, France has developed international cooperation not only within Europe, through programs implemented by the European Union (Galileo, GMES) and the European Space Agency, but also through bilateral partnerships it has established, initially with the major space-faring nations (USA, Russia, Japan) and with other countries that have developed their own space capabilities or have expressed a desire to acquire them.
1 - France’s Bilateral Space Cooperation Framework Bilateral space cooperation is developed under the framework of intergovernmental agreements and interagency agreements. With regard to intergovernmental agreements, the Foreign and European Affairs Ministry plays a central role in interministerial coordination during the negotiation and ratification phases. Implementing these agreements is the responsibility of the CNES (National Space Studies Center) designated as the “competent body” responsible for implementing its institutional component. Institutional cooperation may also be accompanied by an industrial component (sale by a French manufacturer of space equipment). In such cases, if the intergovernmental agreement covers all cooperation with a partner, a clear distinction is made, within it, between what is within the framework of institutional cooperation and the industrial component. The Foreign and European Affairs Ministry is also involved concerning monitoring and the political impetus for implementing these agreements.
Bilateral space cooperation agreements recently concluded by France focus on developing space applications, an area that represents a significant potential in the chain of space activities. As such, France shares its expertise in space technology’s contribution to combating global warming, preventing and reducing natural risks, managing natural resources, land use and environmental protection, as well as in the fields of seismology, meteorology, altimetry, oceanography, distance learning, and telemedicine as part of its institutional cooperation with numerous partners. Other areas of cooperation under these agreements include training specialists in the space sector, organizing joint events, dialogue on issues regarding international space law and earth sciences.
2 - France’s Primary PartnersThe Primary Space-faring NationsFrance has maintained cooperation with the United States for over four decades. It has developed in the context of the intergovernmental agreement dated January 23rd, 2007. Given the variety of activities conducted by the two major U.S. agencies that operate in space (NASA and NOAA), Franco-American cooperation covers a broad spectrum of areas, including in particular Earth observation, Earth science and cosmology, human spaceflight. With regards to altimetry and oceanography, the JASON program, the fruit of Franco-American cooperation gradually spread to Europe (EUMETSAT), is a reference in this domain. The JASON-2 satellite was launched in June 2008. The SWOT interferometric altimeter program, providing elevation data on a 120 km swath, provides a new technological breakthrough and highlights the excellence of Franco-American cooperation in this field.
France has maintained relations with Russia in space since 1966. Franco-Russian cooperation focuses on space access programs, as Russia is a historical reference in the field of launchers, with Soyuz being operated for decades. Franco-Russian cooperation is developed under the framework of the intergovernmental agreement dated November 26th, 1996.
“Soyuz in Koru,” decided in the late 1990s, is the emblematic French-Russian space cooperation program. This program’s implementation required the conclusion of a number of intergovernmental agreements between France, Russia, and the European Space Agency. The first launch of Soyuz from the Guiana Space Centre (CSG) is expected to occur during 2011. Moreover, the future “Urals” launcher research program includes the construction of technology demonstrators for use in next generation launcher programs. In addition, as part of the “France-Russia 2010” year the small “Baumanets” satellite project, developed by students of the universities of Montpellier 2 and Bauman (Moscow) to be launched in 2011 was conceived.
France’s and Japan’s concerns in space are quite close and cover evolving technologies, sustainable development, protecting the planet, and remote exploration. Space cooperation with Japan is developed under the framework of five working groups in the fields of Earth observation, space transportation, exploration, components and use of the International Space Station.
France’s Other PartnershipsThe intergovernmental agreement on space cooperation signed by France and Italy on February 6th, 2007 defines the areas of cooperation within the framework of the European Space Agency (launchers, Earth observation, space exploration), the European Union (Galileo/EGNOS, GMES) and at the multilateral and bilateral levels.
With India France signed a new intergovernmental agreement on bilateral cooperation in space during the Franco-Indian summit on September 30th, 2008. This cooperation is based on two flagship programs: “Megha-Tropiques” for studying tropical climatology and “SARAL” for operational oceanography and defining a campaign to measure the impact of precipitation and cloud masses on space telecommunications systems. These two satellites, in the final stages of development, should be launched during 2011.
Bilateral space cooperation between France and China is developed under the framework of the intergovernmental agreement signed on May 15th, 1997. This cooperation, primarily focused on the sciences, is organized around two entities: the Joint Committee and the strategic dialogue space sub-group.
Under the framework of the Joint Committee, whose ninth session was held in February 2010, cosmology, earth sciences (oceanography, seismic), microgravity, life sciences and applications (tele-epidemiology) cases are examined.
The projects under the strategic dialogue space sub-group, established in 2004, relate to oceanography (project CFOSAT) and astronomy (SVOM program).
Cooperation between France and Brazil in space is developed under the framework of the intergovernmental agreement signed on November 27th, 1997. It has long been focused on stratospheric balloons in whose release and recovery Brazil has incomparable advantages.
The President of the Republic’s visit to Brazil on December 22nd, 2008 gave new impetus to this cooperation with the decision to launch three new projects: the Brazilian multi-mission satellite platform PMM project, the proposed Brazilian geostationary satellite GBS project, and the GPM project to study the water cycle in inter-tropical zone.
France signed an intergovernmental agreement on space cooperation with the Algeria February 1st, 2006. Its scope covers areas such as space applications, particularly in terms of space technologies’ contribution to land planning, protection of the environment, disaster prevention, risk reduction, training space industry specialists, and technology programs.
The intergovernmental agreement on space cooperation signed during the President of the Republic’s visit to Kazakhstan (October 6, 2009) focuses on space applications (meteorology, tele-medicine, natural resources management, land planning, preventing and reducing natural hazards) and training space specialists.
At the 12th Franco-German Council of Ministers - FGCM - (February 4th, 2010), it was decided to provide space cooperation between France and Germany, developed primarily in the context of the European Space Agency, with a substantial bilateral segment with the announcement of the joint “Merlin” mission, aimed at climate monitoring by satellite. The “Merlin” methane detection satellite is to be launched in 2014.
Moreover, during the 12th FGCM, two working groups CNES-DLRworking groups were set-up: one for the new generation of European launchers, the other regarding exploration.
Online publication: December 7, 2010