France-India space cooperation, CNES joins Indian human spaceflight programme

France will be contributing to India’s Gaganyaan human spaceflight programme.

Thursday 15 April, during the official visit to India of Jean-Yves Le Drian, the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, CNES and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced a new space cooperation agreement from the Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC) in Bangalore. Under this agreement, France will be contributing to India’s Gaganyaan human spaceflight programme.

The first space agreement between France and India dates back to 1964. Existing partnerships between the two nations cover almost all areas of space activity. ISRO will also be launching the joint Oceansat 3-Argos mission this year. With the new agreement, France will be taking part in the great technological and human challenge that is the Gaganyaan programme.

The Gaganyaan orbital spacecraft project was kicked off in August 2018. It originally intended to send aloft an astronaut from Indian soil to mark the 75th anniversary of the country’s independence in 2022. Test flights will carry an instrumented humanoid robot. The capsule will orbit at an altitude of 400 kilometres for seven days before splashing down in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Ahmedabad.

ISRO has asked CNES to help prepare for Gaganyaan missions and to serve as its single European contact in this domain. Under the terms of the agreement, CNES will train India’s flight physicians and CAPCOM mission control teams in France at the CADMOS centre for the development of microgravity applications and space operations at CNES in Toulouse and at the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany. The agreement provides for CNES to support implementation of a scientific experiment plan on validation missions, exchange information on food packaging and the nutrition programme, and above all the use by Indian astronauts of French equipment, consumables and medical instruments. French equipment developed by CNES, tested and still operating aboard the International Space Station (ISS) will thus be made available to Indian crews. Thomas Pesquet, who is set to make his second flight to the ISS on 22 April for the Alpha mission, had previously tested these devices on his first spaceflight. Lastly, CNES will also be supplying fireproof carry bags made in France to shield equipment from shocks and radiation.

This cooperation could be extended in the future to parabolic flights operated by Novespace to test instruments and for astronaut training, as well as technical support for construction of an astronaut training centre in Bangalore. Ultimately, ISRO would like to leverage CNES’s experience in long-duration spaceflights with a view to developing an Indian space station.

Speech by Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs

(Check against delivery)

Mr Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation,
Mr Director, Human Space Flight Centre
Ladies and gentlemen,

Space cooperation is one of the historical cornerstones of our partnership, since the first space agreement between France and India dates back to 1964! But it is also one of the areas in which the future of this partnership will play out. This is why I am delighted to be with you this morning, here at the Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC).

The strength of our cooperation lies in the strength of complementarity, based on similar and, in a sense, convergent objectives, since our two countries have built their space capabilities on the same resolve for independence.

India has undeniably become a great technological space power. And I know that Prime Minister Modi has initiated major reforms to make your country an economic space power, too. Be assured that France is also ready to support you in reaching this new milestone.

We can be proud of the fact that we have already established partnerships in almost every field of space activity. These pioneering collaborations are very concrete assets for meeting the major challenges of the 21st century.

  • I am thinking of the climate challenge, since at the time of the signing of the Paris Agreement, our two countries already had two operational satellites, developed and operated jointly, which daily provide information for climate research.

    Since then, this fleet has been further expanded, and this year you will launch the OCEANSAT 3 oceanographic satellite, which will carry the ARGOS 4 mission of [the French space agency] CNES.

    In addition, the future Indo-French thermal infrared observation satellite TRISHNA is being developed in Toulouse and here, in Bangalore. For the first time, it will help continuously measure the surface temperature of the entire planet with unmatched precision.
  • I spoke about the climate challenge, and I am also thinking of the security challenge, since our joint maritime surveillance programme will enter its operational phase this year, with the installation of dedicated facilities in India.

    Teams from CNES, the Space Command, and ISRO have also begun discussions with a view to building a stronger partnership with regard to security.
  • And I am also thinking of the fascinating challenge of the scientific exploration of space.
    In this regard, I am very pleased to announce today France’s participation in the formidable GAGANYAAN programme, which follows in the trail of the great explorations that have marked the History of humanity.

But today I would, most of all, like to talk to you about the future of our cooperation. In the past, we have always been able to stay one step ahead, as they say, and it is by looking to the future that we will remain truly faithful to our common history.

  • I am thinking of technologies for future reusable launchers.
  • I am thinking of India’s future planetary exploration missions.
  • And I am thinking, beyond what we will do together on GAGANYAAN, of the design and deployment of the future Indian space station.

Three projects seem to me to be priorities for writing the next chapter of this collective adventure.

  • 1) First of all, our space sector manufacturers must work closely together.
    Discussions are underway. For it is clear that unity will create the power for establishing the competitiveness of our private players on new markets.
  • 2) Second, the deepening of the Indo-Pacific mission of our space partnership. I know that ISRO has signed a cooperation agreement with the Australian space agency. We ourselves have many ongoing cooperation with Australia. I think it’s important to invite our governments to consider the possibilities of bringing about such a strategic closeness, which could then be applied within our space agencies. I attach particular importance to this subject.
  • 3) Lastly, the protection of our infrastructures against new threats.
    Both our countries recently carried out largescale reforms in space security. I am convinced that civilian space cooperation can serve as a model for the establishment of military space cooperation between France and India. I would therefore like a Strategic Space Dialogue to be established between our two governments. This is essential to have convergence in our positions at the strategic and political levels, as we are already doing in other areas of security and defence.

These, Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, are the most important points what I wished to raise with you so as to fully integrate our historic space cooperation in a 21st century that is riddled with challenges but is also full of new opportunities for our various cooperation.

Thank you.

Last modified on 15/04/2021

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