[VIDEO] VIDEO. Discover how CNES satellites are controlled from a site in the heart of the Toulouse countryside – LaDepeche.fr

The Gist In order to communicate with satellites, CNES relies on a network of ground stations. In France, the antennas in Issus, around thirty kilometers south of Toulouse, communicate with space.

Communicating with space and the tools sent to monitor Earth or explore the universe requires wide eyes and a location protected from radio frequencies and jamming. Therefore, in 1980, CNES decided to establish its Aussaguel site in Issus, 30 km south of Toulouse.

This satellite telecommunications center is one of six locations worldwide where the French Space Agency ensures the control, monitoring and data collection of spacecraft. Control is mainly automatic through programming under the control of the COR (Network Operations Center) based at the Toulouse Space Center. Currently, the CNES Multimission Network enables communication with 15 satellites for 13 different missions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In 2022, 40,000 satellite passages were recorded.

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Meet the needs of new space players

The Issus-Aussaguel site has two branches; The Marlink company, which specializes in satellite communications for maritime shipping and operates around ten antennas, is also located there.

In Issus Aussaguel, the new STC station with a smaller dish was installed at the end of 2022.

At Issus Aussaguel, the new STC station with a smaller dish was installed at the end of 2022. DDM – NATHALIE SAINT AFFRE

The STC station (Télécommande station) has been added very close to the site entrance. Designed by Safran, installed in late 2022 and inaugurated last September, it completed the CNES’s “multi-mission” network by meeting new requirements.

“This station was designed with optimization in mind: it is smaller (5.5 meters in diameter), requires less maintenance (20 hours per year compared to 140 hours for a traditional antenna) and costs four times less (approximately 1. 4 million euros). “makes it possible to meet the needs of new space players who have smaller, lower-positioned satellites that send less data,” emphasizes Etienne Mercey, Head of Stations Engineering at CNES.

Étienne Mercey, head of the station engineering department at CNES.

Étienne Mercey, head of the station engineering department at CNES. DDM – NATHALIE SAINT AFFRE

Missions that require more passages and more data

This latest generation model will be duplicated in four additional stations to complete the “Multimission” network at the locations of Punta Arenas (Chilean Patagonia) in 2024, La Réunion in 2026 and later in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon and in complete French Polynesia.

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Opposite the STC station, the Cormoran station, with its 11 meter diameter antenna from 2017, its 31 tons in motion and, above all, its dual frequency (“S” band and “X” band) allows to support the Receiving large amounts of data. For example, it enables operations on the Pleiades, SWOT, Jason 3 satellites or on the Ness nanosatellite. “In SWOT, one of those missions that need to see further, more precisely and more often, we collect 20 gigabytes per pass and it’s twenty per day, that’s a real jump for us. We can therefore operate both a large satellite and a SWOT (12 meter span, 1 ton) and a CubeSat of a few centimeters and a few kilos in weight like Ness,” emphasizes Claude Audouy, deputy director of telecommunications, stations and Alerts at CNES.

Claude Audouy, deputy director and sub-director of telecommunications, stations and alarms at CNES

Claude Audouy, Deputy Director, Sub-Director of Telecommunications, Stations and Alarms at CNES DDM – NATHALIE SAINT AFFRE

A telescope being tested

The Tarot Telescope is currently being tested at the Issus Aussaguel site before being installed in New Caledonia.

The Tarot Telescope is currently being tested at the Issus Aussaguel site before being installed in New Caledonia. DDM – NATHALIE SAINT AFFRE

Instruments are regularly checked at the Issus-Aussaguel site. This is currently the case with the fourth telescope of the TAROT (Fast Action Telescope for Transient Object) series, which is being tested before its departure to New Caledonia.