6:00 a.m., 22 September 2022, amended at 10:59, 22 September 2022
Nine billion euros is the sum France will invest in space over the next three years. A message from Elisabeth Borne at the opening of the 73rd Astronautical Congress, which began on Sunday in Paris. A sum that must be used for for research and our space industry. It is clear that we want these large investments to have maximum impact for our research, our industry and our fellow citizens. “, explained the prime minister. An amount that may seem astronomical, but which should allow France to pursue its space ambitions. Lionel Suchet, Deputy Director General of the National Center for Space Studies (CNES), explains the challenges this area represents for France.
Why is Elisabeth Borne’s announcement important for the space sector?
It is an awareness that space is an important issue for tomorrow’s France. As for all countries, but there are some who are more or less aware of it: those who notice it and invest in it today will be ahead tomorrow, and not only in this area. Space was created around knowledge and defence, but it also exists in agriculture, fisheries, climate, health, spatial planning, construction, mobility… Topics that are extremely important to our economies. Today, many countries are investing massively in space: the Americans are increasing their budget, the Chinese are going very fast, the Indians are increasing their activities… The political question is whether Europe and France want to stay in the lead or not. This is all the more important since in France we have unique space skills in terms of launch vehicles, observation and telecommunications satellites. But remaining the leaders in a world where competition is more and more intense requires energy and resources, and we are glad that the government is giving them to us.
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The sum invested seems enormous, but should it be put into perspective in relation to other countries?
Even with less money, we don’t need to be ashamed of our space systems. But you don’t have to be let down. It is a global race because the mastery of space will be a differentiator for our society tomorrow. Not only for science, research and defence, but for all areas of the economy. We must prepare this now, for our savings and for the benefit of our society. The invested money will therefore make it possible to work with national issues, primarily defence, but also for the European Space Agency and in bilateral relations with many countries in the world.
Telecommunications, mobility, understanding the climate… All this happens from space
What does space bring to the daily lives of the French?
Every French person unknowingly uses about thirty satellites every day. Telecommunications, mobility, understanding the climate… All this happens from space.
Exactly how does space allow us to better understand climate change?
[le Groupe d’experts intergouvernemental sur l’évolution du climat, NDLR] uses essential climate variables that measure the state of the planet. There are about 50 of them, and more than half of these numbers are measured by space means. Measurement of sea level rise can only be carried out from satellites thanks to the collaboration between France, CNES and the USA. It has been around for 30 years. We can also monitor and measure greenhouse gas emissions or forest fires, and it will unfortunately be part of the future of the population to follow the state of our planet’s development.
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Will many French people in a few years be working in space?
Yes, and more and more. Live because space systems will cost less and can be manufactured more easily: Many start-ups are already establishing themselves to make space infrastructure, satellites or satellite subsystems. Five years ago we had two start-ups knocking on the door of CNES every year; last year we had one a week. And indirectly, many areas as diverse as mobility, construction, fishing, climate, health, tourism will benefit from it. For example, on the Grand Paris construction site, the development of the buildings must be followed to see if they move, and this is done using spatial data, thanks to radar interferometry, which makes it easy to see millimetric displacements.
To have real autonomy you need launchers
Besides Ariane 6, what are the next big space deadlines for France and Europe?
Ariane 6 is very important for the sovereignty of access to space. To have real autonomy you need launchers. But we also have this large SWOT satellite, launched at the end of the year, which will measure the height of sea water with very high precision, and for the first time the height and stocks of fresh water in the rivers and lakes, which represent a very important geostrategic topic. The activity does not stop in the field: moreover, this 73rd air congress is a real success with more than 9,300 participants, which is a record, but also a marker of the explosion of the field.