Just when we've really got something to talk about, we can't go," says Debbie Rahn of NASA's public affairs office for international affairs, explaining that the US space agency has pulled out of this year's Paris air show, for reasons of economic expediency.

The timing is unfortunate because events in the space industry are building up towards the historic flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis/STS71, and its docking with the Russian space station, the Mir 1 in late June. Indeed, had the original schedule been kept, the docking would have taken place during the show. NASA still would not have been there, however.

The European Space Agency has come to the rescue by giving NASA astronauts an opportunity to talk about the famous mission as well as their own completed STS66/Atlas 3 flight, and the planned STS75/Tethered Satellite System (TSS) mission in 1996. Also on the ESA stand will be the crew for the second Euromir mission, in which agency astronaut Thomas Rieter will fly aboard the Mir 1 for 135 days, starting in August.

The 1,200m2 (12,900ft2) ESA pavilion will be dominated by a full-size mock-up of the Ariane 5 launcher, which will have its maiden flight in November. This will be about 50m tall and 12m wide.

The ESA will also feature a replica of a satellite anechoic test chamber, where the transmission/receiving performance of satellites and their behaviour in electromagnetic fields are tested.

There will also be full-scale models of the European Remote Sensing satellite, the ERS 2, and the Infra red Space Observatory, the ISO, which is being launched on an Ariane 4 later this year. A virtual-reality section shows a rover moving across a simulated planetary terrain.

As usual, ESA's neighbours will be Arianespace and the French space agency, CNES. China Great Wall Industry, with its models of Long March boosters, will be at Paris again. A newcomer will be the US X Company, Orbital Sciences, which is making a big impact in many areas of the space industry.

The Russian presence includes the space design and manufacturing bureau Khrunichev, which among other things, commercial markets the Proton booster with another Paris exhibitor, Lockheed Martin. McDonnell Douglas will take an opportunity to promote its new Delta 3 satellite launcher. NASA space station prime contractor Boeing will also be at the show.

Source: Flight International