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Diamant and France’s drive for space power status

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Agate, Topaze, Emeraude, Rubis and Saphir were the names of the ballistic rockets in the Pierres Précieuses (“Gemstones”) programme, tested by SEREB, the ballistic missiles research and development company, from 1959 onwards. Under this programme, 5 test vehicles or experimental rockets were developed as the basis for Diamant.

Late in 1960, SEREB submitted a report to the Armed Forces Minister indicating that “a craft able to place a satellite weighing 50 kilograms into Earth orbit is achievable.”

In 1962, CNES signed an agreement with DMA, the French ministerial office for defence procurement, to execute this national launcher project, aiming for a 1st launch 3 years later in 1965.
Diamant-A's launch base in Hammaguir, Algeria ; credits CNES/L.Laidet

Diamant-A's launch base in Hammaguir, Algeria ; credits CNES/L.Laidet

Having received the go-ahead, the partners now put the project organization in place: DMA would lead launcher studies, production and testing, and development of 4 experimental satellites; SEREB would be prime contractor; and CNES would contribute funding for studies, production and testing.



Diamant-A's 1st launch. CNES staff attending ; credits CNES

Diamant-A's 1st launch. CNES staff attending ; credits CNES

During the 3 years that followed, no less than 38 Gemstone vehicles were launched to test the capabilities of the future Diamant launcher. On 26 November 1965, at 15:47, Diamant lifted off successfully from the Hammaguir launch base in Algeria.

1st launch on 26 November 1965 ; credits DMA

1st launch on 26 November 1965 ; credits DMA

This launch was a first shot that rang across France and around the world. In the words of General De Gaulle: “the orbiting of France’s 1st satellite by a French launcher is an important success that fills the entire nation with joy and pride.”

It also proved that France’s ballistic missile industry had reached maturity.




 
 
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