International Space Conference & Expo 2020 [fr]
France-India Space Cooperation - Climate Science in focus at International Space Conference & Expo 2020.
Bengaluru, 15 September 2020
Tuesday 15 September, CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall took part in the 2020 edition of the International Space Conference & Expo organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry, recalling during the virtual session held due to the health situation the importance of space cooperation between India and France, notably in the field of climate science.
As far back as 2001, the two nations made climate a priority of their partnership. In 2016, CNES and ISRO brought together more than 60 space agencies to ratify the New Delhi Declaration, laying the foundations for the Space Climate Observatory (SCO). Launched by President Macron in 2019 in Paris, the SCO is a unique initiative through which numerous space agencies are joining forces and combining the capacities of their satellites to offer a new perspective on the need to adapt to climate change. Indeed, satellite systems provide by far the highest amount of data for climate models.
CNES and ISRO are operating a number of climate monitoring satellites together. TRISHNA, a highly precise thermal infrared observer, will soon join this fleet of Indo-French satellites. After a successful design phase led by the joint ISRO-CNES team, the satellite is now set to enter its development phases in the coming months. TRISHNA will provide continuous thermal monitoring at high resolution, its unmatched capabilities serving precious applications ranging from sustainable agriculture to forecasting of droughts and monitoring of urban heat islands.
At the end of last year, the Argos-4 payload module set to fly on the Oceansat-3 satellite—another major collaboration between the two nations—arrived in India. Oceansat-3 is key to assuring the operational continuity of the Argos system and will bolster the fleet of French-Indian satellites monitoring climate from space.
Speech by CNES President, Dr. Jean-Yves Le Gall on the occasion of International Space Conference & Expo 2020, Ushering The New Era For Indian Space Sector.
– Check against delivery –
Dear colleagues and friends,
I am delighted to be part of today’s event. I have attended every edition since 2014, and it is saddening that we couldn’t meet face to face this year. I really do miss my travels to India. I usually visit 3 to 4 times a year, and what I value foremost is the bright spirit in which space activities are conducted, off the beaten track. Indeed, Western space models would do well to draw inspiration from India. On a more personal note, each of my stays in India has been a bliss, a breath of fresh air/pause in my hectic schedule. And my belief is that India has even more to bring in the new world order arising out of the present crisis.
Our economies have been badly hit. At CNES, we have reacted rapidly and are in a position to prevent any cancellation of programmes. The developments engaged in particular with ISRO have continued remotely and we are looking at only a couple of months of incompressible delays. I want here to thank my friend Dr K Sivan and his teams for their responsiveness. Without your adaptability, this remarkable result couldn’t have been achieved. We also took advantage of our Bangalore-based liaison office, CNES being the only foreign space agency with such a permanent presence in India.
The challenges ahead of us will be shaped to a large extent by this crisis. Space activities that were already widely dedicated to benefiting citizens will have to support our societies even more. As a major pillar of our economies, space applications have reached all sectors of our lives, agriculture, health, transport and security being only the tip of the iceberg. Space also has a key role to play in reconstruction work for many affected sectors.
As far back as 2001, France and India took the pioneering step of making climate a priority of their partnership. In 2016, CNES and ISRO brought together more than 60 space agencies to ratify the New Delhi Declaration, which laid the groundwork for the Space Climate Observatory or SCO. Launched by President Macron in 2019 in Paris, the SCO is the unique initiative of a vast majority of space agencies to join forces in combining the capacities of their satellites to offer an independent view for adaptation to climate change. Indeed, satellite systems provide by far the highest amount of data to climate models and space is the only global and permanent observatory we have.
As a core part of this initiative, CNES and ISRO are already operating climate monitoring satellites together. TRISHNA, a highly precise thermal infrared observer, will soon join this fleet of Indo-French satellites. After a successful design phase conducted by the joint ISRO-CNES team, we will be entering the development phases of the satellite in the coming months. The procurement for the main instrument has already been entrusted to Airbus in April, enabling work to start. This is a remarkable example of continuity during the crisis. TRISHNA will provide continuous thermal monitoring at high resolution, its unmatched capabilities serving precious applications ranging from sustainable agriculture to forecasting of droughts and monitoring of urban heat islands.
Another well advanced joint project is the latest French Argos payload module set to fly on the forthcoming OCEANSAT satellite. As you know, Argos is a fantastic system to collect environmental data, track wildlife and send safety-of-life alerts. The CNES part of the satellite was recently delivered to the U. R. Rao Satellite Centre. We will proceed with integration as soon as possible. CNES and ISRO teams are looking forward with excitement to working together in the same clean room, not least because they know each other very well, having met numerous times during the project’s preparation.
I am closely following the developments in the Indian ecosystem, where major activities are being transferred to the private sector. I would like to recount a recent story at CNES showing similarities. Our strong will to create a nanosatellite production capacity in France led CNES to support one of its private suppliers, HEMERIA. Our sole objective here was to give HEMERIA everything they would need to gain the ability to conceive and build nanosatellites on their own.
We pulled this off by working together in a new way, collaborating through co-funding, knowledge transfers and agile project management, with the permanent aim of reducing costs without compromising quality. ANGELS, the very first French commercial nanosatellite, was launched about 9 months ago. The satellite is living up to its promises and stands as the forerunner for the KINEIS constellation of nanosatellites. So, HEMERIA has demonstrated its production capacity and is setting foot into the global nanosatellite market .
The takeaway here is that CNES’s expertise has been central to the success of the operation and that the satellite would not have been built without the institutional contract awarded to industry. In other words, not only public money but also a precise public ambition translated into a very concrete project sowed the seeds of this success, enabling French industry to be competitive in the commercial marketplace. I am very confident that you can write similar success stories here in India together with Indian industry and conceive your own ambitious projects.
CNES has been busy in recent months despite the crisis. The launch of the PERSEVERANCE rover on 30 July was quite an emotional moment. Much of the Martian rover, including its high-energy laser-beam head capable of analysing the composition of rocks from a distance, comes from France. French planetary exploration expertise dates back to the 1960s and it is working in this field with international partners. Today, CNES is involved with the exploration programme of the European Space Agency, as well as with NASA, Russia and more recently Japan. Indeed, the Japanese HAYABUSA2 mission included the French-German MASCOT lander, which we proudly put down on an asteroid. The samples collected by the probe are set to return to Earth at the end of this year. This shall be a historic moment.
Here in India, together with my friend Dr Sivan, we are always planning ambitious new paths of cooperation, and our discussions give me hope that CNES may soon partner with ISRO on India’s upcoming planetary exploration missions. Last time I was in Bangalore, we discussed in detail French technical support to ISRO’s broader human spaceflight programme. ISRO is about to become a prime player in future crewed space exploration. I am thinking not only of the GAGANYAAN missions, but also of the next leap, with India poised to acquire a permanent orbital outpost in the years to come. CNES has gained extensive technical experience on the ISS and the ATV cargo spacecraft programmes. Ten French astronauts have been to space. French ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet will depart again next year, on board the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, for a 6-month stay on the ISS. CNES is actively preparing for this mission, named Alpha, which will cover various scientific and technological objectives. New instrumentation brought in by CNES for this mission spans virtual reality for robotic control to neuroscience physiology-monitoring devices. This is the kind of state-of-the-art expertise we are willing to share with ISRO and bilateral discussions are already well advanced for GAGANYAAN.
On the launch vehicle front, we have continued operations at the Guiana Space Centre while maintaining strict health protocols. In August we saw the lift-off of the 253rd Ariane 5 flight, and this month our Vega vehicle delivered 53 satellites to orbit. Very soon now, we will be performing the final qualification firing of the massive P120C booster. Common to Ariane 6 and to the first stage of Vega-C, the P120C is the world’s largest monolithic carbon-fibre solid-propellant booster.
At CNES, innovation and international cooperation underpin everything we do. By joining forces and pooling talents, international cooperation cuts development cycles and enables projects to be more ambitious. Cultivating contacts with other cultures and methods is in my opinion the best way to encourage the disruptive approaches required to stay competitive.
Thank you very much and I wish you successful discussions during this event.