Astérix (satellite)

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Type: Research satellite
Country: FranceFrance France
Operator: Center national d'études spatialesCNES CNES
COSPAR-ID : 1965-096A
Mission dates
Dimensions: 42 kg
Size: 536 mm high,
550 mm diameter
Begin: November 26, 1965, 14:47 UTC
Starting place: Brigitte, Hammaguir
Launcher: Diamond-A
Status: inactive
Orbit data
Rotation time : 107.5 min
Orbit inclination : 34.3 °
Apogee height 1697 km
Perigee height 527 km

Astérix is the name of the first French satellite . It was also the first earth satellite launched without the participation of the USA or the USSR .


In the early 1960s, France had ambitions to develop its own rockets and satellites independently of the USA. For this purpose, the state but civil space agency CNES was founded in 1961 . According to a decision of May 1962, however, the responsibility for the development of the Diamant launcher and the first four satellites was still with the Direction Ministérielle des Armements (DMA). In the event that the first two attempts are successful, the CNES could launch its own satellites for the remaining two launches.

The development of the diamond rocket and the satellites of the A1 series was carried out by the Société pour l'étude et la réalisation d'engins balistiques (SEREB), the production by the Matra company . CNES made a push in 1965 and tried to use a CNES D1 series satellite , which also had scientific functions, as its payload when the Diamant was first launched . However, to reduce the risk of losing a D1 satellite, it was decided on July 19, 1965 to use a satellite from the simpler A1 series when the Diamant was first launched.


The satellite had the model designation A-1. The starting team first suggested the name Zébulon for the specimen to be started , after a character from the animated film series Le Manège enchanté ( The Magic Carousel ), which has a spring instead of legs, with the help of which it can move. However, this proposal was rejected by the superiors. However , naming the satellite after the cartoon character Asterix met with general approval.


Astérix has the shape of two truncated cones attached to a connecting cylinder . It has a diameter of 550 mm and a total height of 536 mm. The satellite does not carry any scientific instruments, but only served to check the function of the launcher. For this purpose, Astérix was equipped with several sensors that measured the acceleration in the longitudinal and transverse directions, the rotational speed, the temperature, the combustion pressure of the third stage and the relative speed during the separation. The opening of the cover and the unfolding of the four antennas were also checked. The telemetry data were transmitted over the frequencies 136.530 and 252 MHz. In addition, a radar transponder with a peak power of 900 watts was on board. The energy was supplied by several batteries. The total mass of the satellite is about 42 kg.

Takeoff and flight history

Astérix was the payload for the maiden launch of the French Diamant launcher . The starting point was the Brigitte ramp of the Center interarmées d'essais d'engins spéciaux near Hammaguir in Algeria . The launch took place on November 26, 1965 at 14:47 UTC . The first stage burned 95 seconds. The end of the burning period was detected by the declining acceleration. The first stage was then blown off and shortly afterwards the second stage was ignited, which only burned 29 seconds.

During a non-propulsion phase of the flight, the satellite fairing was blown off 152 seconds after take-off and the antennas of the satellite were folded out. For the next two minutes the missile was leveled. 279 seconds after launch, the rocket was set into rotation around its longitudinal axis by small solid rockets. It was precisely at this point in time that the reception of the telemetry data broke off and the trajectory could only be tracked using radar stations.

It was planned that the second rocket stage would be detonated 299 seconds after the start and the third rocket stage would be detonated 440 seconds after the start. 45 seconds later it was burned out and the satellite had reached Earth orbit. When the satellite was picked up by radar again after having orbited the earth, it was clear that the launch had succeeded.

Asterix is ​​still in orbit.


Although the observation stations had reported after a few minutes that Asterix was not sending any telemetry signals, a prepared press release was distributed in the evening by the Ministry of the Army ( Ministère des Armées ), in which the proper functioning of the satellite was reported. The radio emitted beeps that did not come from space but had been pre-recorded.

With the launch of Asterix, France became, after the Soviet Union , the United States , the United Kingdom , Canada and Italy, the sixth state to have its own satellite in orbit, and the third state to have used its own launcher.

Postage stamps

As early as November 30, 1965, the French Post published a block of stamps showing the launching rocket and the satellite in orbit. In the same design, but with different face values, this brand later appeared in the French overseas territories.

For the 50th anniversary, the French Post published a triangular postage stamp for the first time in November 2015.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Orbit data after reaching orbit according to Asterix in the Encyclopedia Astronautica , accessed on November 23, 2015 (English).
  2. ^ Jean-Paul Guinard: May 9, 1962: l'accord DMA-CNES. In: Nos premières années dans l'espace. Retrieved on November 24, 2015 (French): “The DMA a la responsabilité des études, de la réalisation et des essais du lance-satellites Diamant… et de quatre satellites technologiques d'essai limités à ce qui était indispensable à la mise au point you lanceur ... "
  3. ^ Le satellite A1. In: Bulletin d'information. Ministère des Armées, accessed on November 26, 2015 (French).
  4. ^ Jean-Paul Guinard: Les choix du Ministre des Armées. In: Nos premières années dans l'espace. Retrieved on November 26, 2015 (French): "il ne fallait pas prendre le moindre risque ni introduire la moindre cause de perturbation lors d'un tel lancement"
  5. a b Gérard Périnelle: equipements. In: Nos premières années dans l'espace. Archived from the original on December 20, 2013 ; Retrieved November 20, 2015 (French).
  6. Jacques Tiziou: Chronologie du tir de “Diamant” N ° 1. In: Nos premières années dans l'espace. P. 3 , accessed on November 26, 2015 (French).
  7. ^ Jean-Paul Guinard: Quelques souvenirs du lancement, il ya 40 ans, des premiers satellites français. In: Nos premières années dans l'espace. Retrieved on November 24, 2015 (French): "les émissions de télémesure du satellite disparaissent à partir de H + 279 s"
  8. Jacques Tiziou: Chronologie du tir de “Diamant” N ° 1. In: Nos premières années dans l'espace. P. 4 , accessed on November 26, 2015 (French).
  9. A1 (Asterix). N2YO, accessed on November 20, 2015 (English): "Perigee: 530.1 km Apogee: 1,653.7 km"
  10. Commentaire du webmestre., accessed November 26, 2015 (French).
  11. Jacques Tiziou: Chronologie du tir de “Diamant” N ° 1. In: Nos premières années dans l'espace. Retrieved on November 26, 2015 (French, audio recording linked).
  12. France. In: Stampworld. Retrieved November 25, 2015 .
  13. ^ 50 ans d'Astérix. Lancement du premier satellite français. En orbite avec Astérix, le 1er timbre triangulaire français! (PDF) In: Communiqué de Presse November 2015. La Poste, November 2015, archived from the original on December 8, 2015 ; Retrieved November 28, 2015 (French).