Nov 20, 2009

French Bond Issue Could be Boon for Space

Estimated Article Reading Time: 1 min.

PARIS — A French government commission on Nov. 19 proposed investing 2 billion euros ($3 billion) of a planned 35 billion-euro government bond issue in new aeronautical and space technologies including Earth observation and broadband spacecraft.

The commission, headed by former French prime ministers Alain Juppe and Michel Rocard, estimated that the total investment package would expand to 60 billion euros when private-sector and possible European Union contributions are included.

The investments backed by the bond issue could come in the form of grants co-financed by the projects’ sponsors, reimbursable loans or loan guarantees made by the French Innovation Agency, OSEO.

The French space agency, CNES, has been weighing a co-investment with Astrium Services in medium-resolution Earth observation satellites to succeed the current Spot 5 spacecraft. Astrium has already begun design of two such satellites, called Spot 6 and Spot 7. The government bond issue could be used to help finance construction of the satellites, or to finance guaranteed future purchases of satellite imagery.

CNES is also taking part in development, with Italy, of a Ka-band broadband satellite called Athena-Fidus, but this spacecraft will be using a portion of the Ka-band spectrum reserved for military users.

The commission said deploying fiber-optic cable throughout France would be costly and would take many years to complete, and that a satellite-broadband project might be preferable. Commercial satellite operator Eutelsat of Paris is already building a large all-Ka-band consumer broadband satellite, called Ka-Sat, which is scheduled for launch in late 2010.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to decide sometime in December where the public-bond proceeds will be spent.

SOURCE