The National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) (French: Centre national d'études spatiales) is the French government space agency (administratively, a "public administration with industrial and commercial purpose"). Its headquarters are located in central Paris and it is under the supervision of the French Ministries of Defence and Research.

National Centre of Space Research
Centre national d'études spatiales
Logotype of CNES
Formation19 December 1961
HeadquartersParis, Île-de-France
Jean-Yves Le Gall
Parent organisation
€2.438 billion (2018)[1]

It operates from the Toulouse Space Center and Guiana Space Centre, but also has payloads launched from space centres operated by other countries. The president of CNES is Jean-Yves Le Gall.[2] CNES is member of Institute of Space, its Applications and Technologies. As of April 2018, CNES has the second largest national budget—€2.438 billion—of all the world's civilian space programs, after only NASA.[3]


CNES was established under President Charles de Gaulle in 1961.

CNES was responsible for the training of French astronauts, until the last active CNES astronauts transferred to the European Space Agency in 2001.

As of January 2015, CNES is working with Germany and a few other governments to start a modest research effort with the hope to propose a LOX/methane reusable launch vehicle by mid-2015. If built, flight testing would likely not start before approximately 2026. The design objective is to reduce both the cost and duration of reusable vehicle refurbishment, and is partially motivated by the pressure of lower-cost competitive options with newer technological capabilities not found in the Ariane 6.[4][5]

Summary of major events


CNES concentrates on five areas:[14]

  • Access to space
  • Civil applications of space
  • Sustainable development
  • Science and technology research
  • Security and defence

Access to space

France was the third space power (see Diamant) to achieve access to space after the USSR and USA, sharing technologies with Europe to develop the Ariane launcher family. Commercial competition in space is fierce, so launch services must be tailored to space operators’ needs. The latest versions of the Ariane 5 launch vehicle can launch large satellites to geosynchronous orbit or perform dual launches—launching two full-size satellites with one rocket—while the other launch vehicles used for European payloads and commercial satellites—the European/Italian Vega and Russian Soyuz-2—are small and medium-lift launchers, respectively.

Sustainable development

CNES and its partners in Europe—through the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security initiative (GMES)—and around the world have put in place satellites dedicated to observing the land, oceans, and atmosphere, as well as to hazard and crisis management.

The best-known are the SPOT satellites flying the Vegetation instrument, the Topex/Poseidon, Jason-1 and Jason-2 oceanography satellites, the Argos system, Envisat, and the Pleiades satellites.

Civil applications

CNES is taking part in the Galileo navigation programme alongside the European Union and the European Space Agency (ESA), and—in a wider international context—in the Cospas-Sarsat search-and-rescue system.[15]

Security and defense

The aforementioned Gallieo navigation programme, though intended primarily for civilian navigational use, has a military purpose as well, like the similar American Global Positioning System and Russian GLONASS satellite navigational systems.[15]

In addition to Spot and the future Pleiades satellites, CNES is working for the defence community as prime contractor for the Helios photo-reconnaissance satellites.

Global Monitoring for Environment and Security—a joint initiative involving the EU, ESA, and national space agencies—pools space resources to monitor the environment and protect populations, though it also encompasses satellite support for armed forces on border patrol, maritime security, and peacekeeping missions.[16]

Ongoing missions

France's contribution to the International Space Station is giving French scientists the opportunity to perform original experiments in microgravity. CNES is also studying formation flying, a technique whereby several satellites fly components of a much heavier and complex instrument in a close and tightly-controlled configuration, with satellites being as close as tens of meters apart. CNES is studying formation flying as part of the Swedish-led PRISMA project and on its own with the Simbol-x x-ray telescope mission.[17]

CNES currently collaborates with other space agencies on a number of projects, including orbital telescopes like INTErnational Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory, XMM-Newton, and COROT and space probes like Mars Express, Venus Express, Cassini-Huygens, and Rosetta. CNES has collaborated with NASA on missions like the Earth observation satellite PARASOL and the CALIPSO environment and weather satellite. It has also collaborated with the Indian Space Agency (ISRO) on the Megha-Tropiques Mission, which is studying the water cycle and how it has been impacted by climate change. CNES plays a major role in the ESA's Living Planet Programme of Earth observation satellites, having constructed the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity satellite.

UFO Archive

In December 2006, CNES announced that it would publish its UFO archive online by late January or mid-February. Most of the 6,000 reports have been filed by the public and airline professionals. Jacques Arnould, an official for the French Space Agency, said that the data had accumulated over a 30-year period and that UFO sightings were often reported to the Gendarmerie.

In the last two decades of the 20th century, France was the only country whose government paid UFO investigators, employed by CNES's UFO section GEPAN, later known as SEPRA and now as GEIPAN.

On March 22, 2007, CNES released its UFO files to the public through its website. The 100,000 pages of witness testimony, photographs, film footage, and audiotapes are an accumulation of over 1,600 sightings since 1954 and will include all future UFO reports obtained by the agency, through its GEIPAN unit.

Tracking stations

The CNES has several tracking stations. A partial list follows:[18][19]

See also


  1. Le 2ème budget au monde, Activité institutionnelle du CNES, retrieved 2017-01-30
  2. "Jean-Yves Le Gall". CNES. Archived from the original on 6 June 2015. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  3. "Le 2ème budget au monde". Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  4. de Selding, Peter B. (5 January 2015). "CNES proposal". de Selding is a journalist for Space News. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  5. de Selding, Peter B. (5 January 2015). "With Eye on SpaceX, CNES Begins Work on Reusable Rocket Stage". SpaceNews. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  6. Maurice Vaïsse (dir.), La IVth République face aux problèmes d'armement, proceedings of the conference held on 29 and 30 September 1997 at the Military Academy of the Center for Defense of studying history, ed. Association pour le développement et la diffusion de l'information militaire (ADDIM), Paris, 1998, p.561 ISBN 2-907341-63-4, 648 pages
  7. "About CNES". CNES. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  8. Wade, Mark. "Hammaguira". Astronautix.
  9. Burgess, Colin; Dubbs, Chris (2007). Animals in Space: From Research Rockets to the Space Shuttle. Berlin: Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 227–228. ISBN 978-0-387-36053-9.
  10. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-10-01. Retrieved 2006-06-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. Shah, Kierann (May 27, 2016). "A Visit to Toulouse: France's Space Capital". National Space Centre Blog. National Space Centre. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  12. "Contact us." Arianespace. Retrieved on 24 September 2009.
  13. "E-CORCE". CNES. 23 March 2015.
  14. "About CNES". CNES.
  15. "Galileo and EGNOS". ESA Navigation. ESA. August 24, 2017. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  16. "Security Service" (PDF) (Press release). Paris: European Space Agency. September 2016. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
  17. "PRISMA PROGRAMME SEEKS TO ACQUIRE EXPERTISE IN FORMATION FLYING" (Press release). Toulouse: CNES. June 22, 2006. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
  18. "Les stations de contrôle". Retrieved 2008-06-22.
  19. "Cnes - Fin de vie de SPOT 1". Retrieved 2008-06-22.

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