The Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) is the French government space agency (administratively, a "public administration with industrial and commercial purpose"). Its headquarters are located in central Paris and it's placed under the supervision of the french Ministries of Defense and Research. It operates out of the Centre Spatial Guyanais, but also has payloads launched from other space centres operated by other countries. CNES formerly was responsible for the training of French astronauts, but the last of them were transferred to the European Space Agency in 2001.
Access to Space
Assured access to space underpins any global, coherent space policy. France was the 3rd space power to achieve this distinction, sharing technologies with Europe to boost development of the Ariane launcher family.
International competition in space is fierce, so launch services must be tailored to space operators’ needs. The new versions of Ariane 5 can launch large satellites or perform dual launches. And the Vega and Soyuz-2 small and medium-lift launchers are now set to round out this range.
Alongside its European partners, CNES also offers its expertise in satellite deployment.
Space resources are vital for learning more about the Earth and its evolution. Earth observation and measurements offer ways to ensure sustainable stewardship of our planet.
CNES and its partners in Europe—through the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security initiative (GMES)—and around the world have put in place satellites dedicated to observing the land, oceans and atmosphere, as well as to hazard and crisis management.
The best-known are the SPOT satellites flying the Vegetation instrument, the Topex/Poseidon and Jason-1 oceanography satellites, the Argos system, Envisat and—in the near future—Jason-2 and the Pleiades constellation.
Space technologies are set to offer society a number of advances in the coming years through the emergence of new services. Space is a great equaliser for bridging territorial disparities in education, health and citizenship. For example, CNES has developed the concept of a “communications-enabled village” that combines the high data rates offered by satellite technology with terrestrial technologies.
CNES is also taking part in the Galileo navigation programme alongside the European Union and Esa, and—in a wider international context—in the Cospas-Sarsat search-and-rescue system.
Security and Defence
In an ever-more-complex world, independent information-gathering, location and civil and military intelligence capabilities are a prerequisite for good, independent and responsive decision-making.
In addition to Spot and the future Pleiades satellites, CNES is working for the defence community as prime contractor for the Helios satellites.
GMES—a joint initiative involving the EU, Esa and national space agencies—pools space resources to monitor the environment and protect populations, but it also encompasses satellite support for armed forces and for European organisations on humanitarian or peacekeeping missions.
France’s contribution to the International Space Station is giving French scientists the opportunity to perform original experiments in microgravity. The CNES is also an innovator, and is currently studying formation flying, a technique whereby several satellites fly components of a much heavier and complex instrument in a tightly controlled configuration. CNES is collaborating with other space agencies in a number of projects. Orbital telescopes such as INTEGRAL, XMM-Newton and COROT, and space probes like Mars Express, Venus Express, Cassini-Huygens and Rosetta, operated by the European space agency are revolutionizing our knowledge of the Universe and our Solar System. Recent satellites such as Demeter (earthquakes). Joint missions with NASA result in PARASOL and CALIPSO (radiation budget) satellites. Megha-Tropiques Mission is a planned collaborative mission with the Indian Space Agency (ISRO) designed to study the water cycle and radiation dynamics, and assist observation from other satellite platforms. CNES plays a major role in the construction and operation of the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity satellite.
In December 2006, CNES announced that it would publish its UFO archive online by late January or mid-February. Most of the 6,000 reports have been filed by the public and airline professionals. Jacques Arnould, an official for the French Space Agency, said that the data had accumulated over a 30 year period and that they were often reported to the Gendarmerie.
On Thursday, March 22, 2007, CNES released its UFO files to the public through its website. The 100,000 pages of witness testimony, photographs, film footage and audiotapes are an accumulation of over than 1,600 sightings since 1954 and will include all future UFO reports obtained by the agency, through its GEIPAN unit.
The French skeptics have heavily criticized the quality of the work done by the GEPAN, and show a lot of flaws in their methodologies. See (in French):
The CNES has several tracking stations. Partial list:
Published - July 2009
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