The Centre national d’études spatiales (CNES) (English: National Centre for Space Studies) is the French government space agency. Established under President Charles de Gaulle in 1961, its headquarters are located in central Paris and it is under the supervision of the French Ministries of Defence and Research.
It operates out of the Toulouse Space Center and Guiana Space Centre, but also has payloads launched from space centres operated by other countries. CNES formerly was responsible for the training of French astronauts, but the last active CNES astronauts transferred to the European Space Agency in 2001.
“Innovation is ingrained in CNES’s DNA and we are always striving to do things better, faster and cheaper.”
CNES plays a key role in the French, European and international space arena, driving initiatives, stimulating new proposals and providing technical expertise to support the design, development and operation of space systems.
While some programmes remain within national boundaries, most would not see the light of day without international partners. CNES thus represents France on the European Space Agency’s Council. It is also a partner in several commercial enterprises, giving government support to strategic activities.
In 1965, in making France the world’s third space power after the Soviet Union and the United States, CNES showed its determination to join the big players. The agency has pursued this ambition ever since, through its involvement in the large-scale projects led by ESA. From the development of Ariane to the Galileo satellite navigation system, which underpins our independence, to the ExoMars rover, the Athena observatory and the Euclid mission, spacefaring Europe is engaged in many cooperative endeavours. Indeed, it is involved in ambitious projects outside its own borders.