In the Spotlight

Franck Riester, French Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade, visits Thales Alenia Space

In the Spotlight

Franck Riester, French Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade, visits Thales Alenia Space

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    Thales Alenia Space was pleased to welcome to its Cannes plant today Franck Riester, French Minister for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness as well as David Lisnard, Mayor of Cannes.

    Cannes is also corporate headquarters for Thales Alenia Space. A center of excellence for the French and European space industry, this plant has built up its skills and expertise over the last 50 years, most notably in Earth observation, telecommunications, space exploration, scientific missions and orbital infrastructures. The delegation visiting today was fascinated by the plant’s 15,000 square meters of clean rooms, making it the largest facility in Europe dedicated to satellite assembly, integration and testing (AIT). Also housed at this site is a center dedicated to the production of very-high-resolution optical instruments, the European benchmark in this demanding field.

    The visitors could see several satellites undergoing integration, including SES-17, mainly intended to provide connectivity services to airline passengers, and the geostationary communications satellites EUTESAT-10B and EUTELSAT KONNECT VHTS. The latter aims to bring high-speed internet to isolated areas in Europe, delivering performance on a par with fiber-optic networks. It will play a major role in bridging the digital divide and providing online connectivity to everybody in France (where more than 800,000 households will gain access to high-speed internet) and in Europe.

    Cannes has also integrated a number of Earth observation satellites, designed to monitor our environment, as well as all very-high-resolution instruments for French defense and security spacecraft, from Helios and CSO to Pleiades. Thales Alenia Space is a pivotal partner in the European Commission’s vast Copernicus observation program.

    In 2020, it was chosen for five of the six new Copernicus Expansion missions: as prime contractor on three of the missions, CHIME, CIMR and ROSE L, and supplier of the instruments for the CO2M and CRISTAL satellites. The delegation got a close-up look at the Sentinel-3C and -3D satellites, in the process of integration. Like the -3A and -3B satellites, launched in 2016 and 2018, respectively, these new models have a two-pronged mission, monitoring both oceans and land masses.

    Cannes is also recognized worldwide for building all European geostationary weather satellites as prime contractor, on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Meteorological Satellite organization (Eumetsat). Today’s visitors got a privileged glimpse of a Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) satellite, which will shortly be delivering the data needed for even more accurate weather forecasting.

    The highlight of the day was undoubtedly a look at the upcoming second ExoMars mission. Four of the major elements on this spacecraft were delivered to Cannes at the end of the year, from Thales Alenia Space’s plant in Turin, Italy. It’s not every day that you’re lucky enough to see these high-tech spacecraft components (transfer module, descent module, landing platform and rover), which will lift off in 2022, destination Mars. Following a long and perilous journey spanning some 500 million kilometers, the landing platform will descend to Mars and release the rover, whose task is to discover possible traces of past life, by drilling up to two meters into the Martian soil.

    The samples taken will be analyzed immediately in the rover’s own mini-lab, and results will be transmitted to ESA via the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), which was integrated at Cannes.

    The ministerial delegation was delighted with its visit, and congratulated all those involved for the many successes chalked up by the European space industry in 2020.

    Photos ©Thales Alenia Space - Artistic views ©Thales Alenia Space/Briot - © ESA © Thales Alenia Space/Master Image Programmes