The Gironde and space, a story that goes back to the 17th century and looks to the future

Why Gironde? Because the ancestor of airspace is aviation. And that in the early days of building airplanes, at the beginning of the 20th centurye century, we avoided doing so within range of the guns of the future German partner – and so sometimes invasively.

That’s how builders are…

Why Gironde? Because the ancestor of airspace is aviation. And that in the early days of building airplanes, at the beginning of the 20th centurye century, we avoided doing so within range of the guns of the future German partner – and so sometimes invasively.

This is how manufacturers like Dyle & Bacalan in the 1920s or Bordeaux Air Company (1930) were born in Bordeaux. It was during this period that a certain Marcel Bloch came to put down his sketchbooks near the Port de la Lune. We know him better by his name resistant, which he also bequeathed to his company: Dassault, a key player in space.

If we want to understand the placement of launchers in the department, we even have to go back… to the 17the century. In 1660, the royal powder mills were created in Saint-Médard-en-Jalles. Relationship to space? Today, the products manufactured there under the ArianeGroup banner, such as solid propellant, no longer power cannonballs, but rockets and missiles of the French nuclear deterrent.

Giants, SMEs and laboratories

“If Toulouse is above all about satellites, what is special about Gironde is its positioning on access to space – thrusters – and the military”, summarizes Pierre-André Baudart, director of Way4Space (see also). This is how New Aquitaine, with the Gironde at its heart, became the third largest geographical region in France after Île-de-France and Occitanie in terms of jobs – around 3,000.

In the landscape there are large groups such as ArianeGroup, Dassault Aviation, Thales, Safran Space, Telespazio, the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and the Directorate General for Armaments (DGA). But also SMEs, because it is no longer necessary to be a giant to touch the space.

A few examples: CMP Composites and its high mechanical capacity tanks (Eysines); HyprSpace and its solid-liquid hybrid propulsion modules (Le Haillan); Exploration Company, which focuses on space “cargo” (Mérignac); I-Sea for observation of coastal areas (Pessac). Or Stellar (Bordeaux), which is developing a constellation of satellites to guarantee a reliable internet connection for vehicles, starting with the car market.

“There has been a dynamic in recent years, notes François Buffenoir, technical and scientific director of Way4Space. One of the special characteristics of new space is that projects become feasible. »

Last component of space travel in the department: research, via laboratories and universities. Examples include Naasc (Nouvelle-Aquitaine Academic Space Center), which notably includes Arts et Métiers, Enseirb-Matmeca and Sciences Po Bordeaux. Hard, finally, to forget the parabolic flights of Cnes (National Center for Space Studies), the only type in Europe that allows experiments in weightlessness with AirZeroG.


Cnes weightlessness flights, a tool for space experiments unique in Europe.

Archives Laurent Theillet / “Southwest”

imagine the future

It is this ecosystem that the Way4Space think tank wants to connect and turn towards the future by accelerating the emergence of complex multi-partner projects. An example: the “space box”: a re-entry of the capsule into the atmosphere. “He was selected by the European Space Agency to be on the first Ariane 6 flight”, rejoices Gosia Petaux, Secretary General of Way4Space.

Pierre-André Baudart, Gosia Petaux and François Buffenoir in Way4Space's premises.


Pierre-André Baudart, Gosia Petaux and François Buffenoir in Way4Space’s premises.

Gwenael Badets

Through workshops, the structure tries to imagine the space of tomorrow. It is sometimes a matter of finding “spatial” outlets for players who did not necessarily have any: “We are establishing a workshop on spatial applications of lasers, by matching skills and needs. », illustrates Pierre-André Baudart. It shows say that the Gironde is in the front in the sector, via the Alpha-Route group of lasers.

A project


A project “accelerated” by Way4Space, the “space case” is a transport capsule that allows atmospheric re-entry.

Way4Space

In the opposite direction, space innovations find terrestrial and even terrestrial applications. “Farmers can benefit from satellite observation to manage inputs or water in their soil”, explains François Buffenoir.

The “ideas workshops” and the projects supported by the think tank sometimes flirt with science fiction. Especially when he tackles themes like “working in space” (with its medical and robotic aspects). Or “produce energy in space”. Case in point, an ongoing study of “space-based solar energy” – an orbital solar power plant. What seemed like a sweet dream may one day become a reality as energy costs become prohibitive on earth. After all, in space, solar energy is no longer an intermittent energy source: it is permanent. “This is our credo, that the extraordinary becomes routine”, strives François Buffenoir.

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