U.S., France Pledge More Space Cooperation, France Joins No-ASAT Pledge

U.S., France Pledge More Space Cooperation, France Joins No-ASAT Pledge

French President Emmanuel Macron, in Washington for a state visit, stopped by NASA Headquarters today to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris and NASA leadership to talk about ongoing and future space cooperation. While the discussion focused mostly on civil space, Harris and Macron also emphasized that yesterday France joined the pledge not to conduct direct-ascent antisatellite tests. France is the 10th country to make the pledge since Harris started the ball rolling in April.

Macron’s state visit is the first of the Biden-Harris administration as worries about COVID-19 subside. Macron and Biden will meet tomorrow followed by a formal state dinner at the White House. The White House calls France “our oldest ally, that is founded on our shared democratic values, economic ties, and defense and security cooperation.”

Today, Macron took time to visit NASA and talk about cooperative projects including the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) spacecraft. A joint effort between NASA and France’s space agency CNES, SWOT is scheduled for launch on December 12.

French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, center, meet at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.,  November 30, 2022. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson is at the end to the right. Photo credit: NASA/Keegan Barber

Harris, who chairs the White House National Space Council, met with Macron a year ago in Paris where she urged him to sign the Artemis Accords and announced the U.S. would join the French-led Space for Climate Observatory. The two countries also agreed to create a Comprehensive Dialogue on Space.

France signed the Artemis Accords on June 7, 2022. Two days later NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad signed the Space for Climate Observatory charter. The first meeting of the Comprehensive Dialogue on Space took place on November 10.

In their remarks today, the two heralded long-standing U.S.-French space cooperation and promised more in the future.

That includes an agreement formally signed today between NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and CNES President Phillipe Baptiste for France to provide one of the seismometers for the Farside Seismic Suite that will return the first seismic data from the far side of the Moon. FSS is one of the payloads on Draper’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) mission scheduled for launch in 2025.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson (L) and CNES President Phillipe Baptiste (R) sign agreement on the Farside Seismic Suite, November 30, 2022. Photo Credit: NASA/Keegan Barber

On the national security space front, France became the 10th country to agree not to conduct tests of direct-ascent ASAT weapons yesterday. In April, Harris announced the U.S. would not do so and asked other countries to join. It is not a ban on ASAT tests overall, only those that create debris imperiling other spacecraft, including space stations.

Switzerland became the ninth country to sign in October, joining the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Australia.

Now there are 10.

Yesterday, France make the commitment, though its statement did not mention U.S. leadership in calling for the ban. Instead it referenced the U.N. First Committee’s resolution adopted four weeks ago that was co-sponsored by France.

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