31 January 2023


Blog, Media Updates, Security, Space

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As a space power on a European and global scale, France has a dynamic, innovative and diversified space ecosystem. It has world leaders in the field of launchers and satellites, and a booming downstream sector, driven in particular by the rise of the New Space players. In this article, we look at the status of the French space sector and its prospects.

France is one of Europe’s leading space nations.

Internationally, it is the largest contributor to the European Space Agency (ESA)[1] and has the fourth largest budget for space programmes globally after the USA, China and Japan[2]. The Ariane family of rockets, whose maiden flight took place on 24 December 1979, is today a central pillar of Europe’s space programme.

At national level, through its space agency, the National Centre of Space Studies (CNES), France is adapting and developing new approaches and tools to: understand current economic and technological dynamics in the space domain; support newcomers; and fuel strategic thinking to meet the major challenges of tomorrow’s space sector.

France is also pressing ahead with cutting-edge space technology developments, such as secure telecommunications satellites, as the launch of the new generation Syracuse 4A satellite demonstrates. France is set to play a leading role with its European partners in future space programmes in which cybersecurity will play a key role.

Inside CNES

CNES is responsible for shaping and implementing French space policy through public procurement, in five main areas:

  • Launchers
  • Science
  • Earth observation
  • Telecommunications
  • Defence

France is the largest contributor to ESA, providing 25% of the total budget contribution from Member States, ahead of Germany (21%) and Italy (14%) in 2022. This represents the largest item in CNES’s overall budget of €2,566 million.

Beyond CNES – a diversified space ecosystem

Preparation du satellite Athenas Fidus
Athena-Fidus satellite © CNES

The French Government’s investment in the space sector generates significant economic spin-offs, measurable in particular by the number of jobs created.

According to a September 2022 study carried out jointly by CNES and Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques (French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies, INSEE), there were over 1,700 companies in the French space sector in 2020, employing over 33,000 people dedicated to space activities3. In addition there are the downstream players (around 15 emerge each year), scientific laboratories, the academic sector and finally institutional bodies. In total, more than 70,000 people in France work in the space sector.

In order to better identify these newcomers and to deepen its knowledge of the global space ecosystem, in March 2020, CNES created the Observatoire d’économie spatiale (Space Economy Observatory) – an organization unique in Europe.

“What motivated the creation of this observatory,” explains Murielle Lafaye, Deputy Director of the Space Economy Observatory, “was first of all the need to know the economic sectors that are promising for the future so that French companies can be in a leading position. For this, we need to know the context, the players and the markets. Also, we need detailed knowledge of our ecosystem in order to advise the Government and understand the impact of its actions and investments in the space sector.”

Indeed, the budgetary effort made by the French Government in recent years to develop the space sector is significant – and increasing. At the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Paris in September 2022, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced the Government’s intention to invest €9 billion in the space sector over the next 3 years – a formidable ambition for France, and also for Europe.

Meeting tomorrow’s challenges

P67064 HD
Launch vehicle adapter, Ariane 6 © CNES

France’s stated ambitions in space are necessary to meet the many challenges of tomorrow: mini launchers, satellite constellations, quantum communications, in-orbit servicing, space surveillance and space exploration (France is a signatory of the Artemis agreements).

“France’s objective is to be present in all the major technological challenges of the coming years, to take advantage of the experience, skills, know-how and industrial and academic resources available in France, which is already a world leader in some of these areas, and also to bring on board new entrants,” confirms Jean-Marc Astorg, Director of Strategy at CNES.

At a time when the European Union is launching the development of a sovereign constellation of secure telecommunications satellites, France, with its wealth of experience and solid technical expertise, has, more than ever, a major role to play in supporting European space ambitions. Its knowledge of the space ecosystem, thanks in part to the Space Economy Observatory created by CNES, enables a deep understanding of current market dynamics and the needs of players to support their growth. This is all valuable data for European decision-makers in setting up major space programmes and associated funding.

[1] European Space Agency;

[2] Euroconsult; Government Space Programs report; 2021 expenditure