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GAO: The DSN is actually falling apart
helvick
post May 27 2006, 05:04 PM
Post #31


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QUOTE (DonPMitchell @ May 27 2006, 04:57 PM) *
With regard to politcial stability, what is the situation in the French Guiana? There has been an ongoing struggle for independance in New Caledonia for years now, with occasional outbursts of violence. That would be a setback for ESA if things got strange there, and Washington would definately not help (given their long lasting "Monroe Doctrine" sentiment).

French Guyana has never really had much of an independance movement, there are some pushes towards increased autonomy perhaps but there isn't much evidence for a genuine militant independance movement. As an overseas département It is fairly well integrated into France politically and economically but it is a particularly impoverished spot, it is a remnant of colonialism and it is far away so there probably are some risks. I don't think they are significant at this point though.

New Caledonia on the other hand is an overseas territory in an unusual phase since it is in the process of devolving from France and while it is still part of the French Republic at the moment the current plan is to vote on an independance referendum in 2014. It has had a pretty violent independance movement in the recent past but the current process seems to be sort of keeping the lid on things for now.

Still the point is well made - political instability in French Guyana would be highly problematic for ESA. I wouldn't want to see it happen but it would be interesting to see how the French would deal with it - I suspect that Kourou is considered a strategic asset so I can't see the French just idly sitting by if things got unstable. I think you are right as far as the Monroe Doctrine is concerned but I also think that pigs would be seen flying over The Champs Elysees before the French would ask for US assistance in what it would consider an entirely internal affair.

The history of the DSN might have seen some similar problems - the removal of Haartebeeshoek in South Africa to be replaced with Madrid in the mid 70's probably had some political motivation behind it for example.
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Guest_DonPMitchell_*
post May 27 2006, 05:31 PM
Post #32





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I agree, Kourou is strategically important, it would certainly be defended. The EU has very limited ability to project military power (except for Britain), but it doesn't sound like this is an issue to worry about.

Launching from the equator is energy efficient, but that's not really the important issue. It's all about getting comsats into geosychronous orbit, without having to develop expensive and complex technology to change orbital plane. That's where the money is too. Kourou is all about skimming the cream off the commercial satellite business, with cheap simple technology. An elegant solution, but very special-purpose.

Changing the plane of an orbit is complex and energy-expensive, and at the moment Arianespace lacks the technology to do those kinds of maneuvers. The Soviet Block-L stage was the first step taken there, but it could only supply one impulse -- which is enough to give you interplanetary escape or to give you a very eccentric high orbit like Molniya, but not enough to circularize a high orbit or change the plane. You really need something like Centaur or Fregat or Briz stages, which I imagine are full of closely guarded engineering secrets.

The ESA must be working on this problem, for the European ISS supply ship. But getting from Kourou to the highly-inclined ISS orbit seems like a bad idea. Military and Earth-resource satellites, which ideally have near-polar orbits, must be almost impossible (thus the remaining tie to the Soyuz system).
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Guest_Richard Trigaux_*
post May 29 2006, 12:58 PM
Post #33





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QUOTE (DonPMitchell @ May 27 2006, 03:57 PM) *
With regard to politcial stability, what is the situation in the French Guiana? There has been an ongoing struggle for independance in New Caledonia for years now, with occasional outbursts of violence. That would be a setback for ESA if things got strange there, and Washington would definately not help (given their long lasting "Monroe Doctrine" sentiment).


French guyana has only some indian tribes as autochtonous population. They will not create problems and know they have no interest to do so, or that they have better remain french than otherwise. The growing problem however is a number of illegal brazilian immigrants (poor people seeking some land to cultivate, gold seekers, etc). It is a serious issue, but nobody fears it could come to an independency fight. The situation is very different of New Caledonia, where Kanaks are numerous with an accute sense of their property. Eventualy a left wind french government could grant them independency, if there was not many french people too. South Pacific islands are somewhat independence-prone too, but nobody believes it could come to a real fight. This makes still many places, especially in southern Indian ocean, where France has some large desert islands (like Kergelen) where the only problem is the harsh climate.
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Guest_Richard Trigaux_*
post May 29 2006, 01:14 PM
Post #34





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QUOTE (helvick @ May 27 2006, 05:04 PM) *
New Caledonia .... It has had a pretty violent independance movement in the recent past ...


Not exact, I think. The Kanaks, like many other people in the world, have a somewhat rituellic way to avoid the crude violence of an open conflict. What they did was to symbolicaly hijack some people in a sacred cave. These people were never in life threat, although nobody knows how long they could stay here. The problem which happened was that the police did not understood that, and they reacted as with dealing with true terrorists, invading the cave (an unthinkable thing for the Kanaks, who considered the place as sacred, just expecting to engage a discution) and killed the hijackers. Lucky if they did not provoked large reprisals in a palestinian style.
This said, however, I shall not be surprised if New Caledonia obtains its independency.




QUOTE (helvick @ May 27 2006, 05:04 PM) *
The history of the DSN might have seen some similar problems - the removal of Haartebeeshoek in South Africa to be replaced with Madrid in the mid 70's probably had some political motivation behind it for example.


Probably yes it had, and a good one: boycott of the apartheid. Now this problem is solved, and the situation stabilized, but years of peace will be still needed to create a real confidence here and at large in Africa.
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