Conference on the French space adventure (1945-1979) in Vernon on September 23

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The town of Vernon in Eure and the Vernon Study Center are organizing a historic conference on Saturday September 23 entitled “The French space adventure, from 1945 to the birth of Ariane”, given by the historian Philippe Varnoteaux.

Conference presentation

At the end of the Second World War, the French armies, like those of the Allies, participated in special operations consisting of recovering German know-how in numerous areas, including missiles. The context of national reconstruction, however, limits ambitions. Thus, the projects to reconstitute V2s and produce a ballistic missile are abandoned. However, a technological watch is maintained with a modest machine called Véronique, designed with the help of German engineers and technicians.

At the beginning of the 1950s, a firing range was set up at the Joint Special Equipment Test Center (CIEES) of Colomb-Béchar, in Hammaguir, to develop Véronique, which in 1954 became the first “French” sounding rocket. » operational. It is then exploited for the exploration of the upper atmosphere by French and even sometimes German scientists.

With the start of the conquest of space, Véronique is modernized and, in its AGI version, it allows scientists to carry out important space experiments. Suborbital flights with animals (rats, cats) were even undertaken in the 1960s. The success was such that improved versions were developed. The closure of CIEES in 1967 did not put an end to the Véronique adventure, which was still operated at the Kourou Space Center (CSG) which she inaugurated on April 9, 1968.

However, the end of sounding rockets brought about the end of Véronique’s career, whose last launch took place at the CSG on May 31, 1975.

Presentation of the speaker

Teacher, doctor in history, member of the French Institute of Space History (IFHE), Philippe Varnoteaux is a specialist in the beginnings of the French conquest of space.

He has published numerous scientific and popular articles, notably in the History section of theAirlines and Destinationsas well as several works including The French space adventure from 1945 to the birth of Ariane (New World, 2015).

As part of the Histoires d’espace association of which he is vice-president, he presents conferences, conducts interviews with former space players and contributes to book publications including the latest, Sixty space stories in France (1961-2021)was published in 2022 by Ginkgo.

Currently, he is preparing a new work on Hammaguir, the first French space base within the Joint Special Vehicle Test Center.

A signing session should be organized at the end of the conference, in the presence of other authors of the work Sixty space stories in France (1961-2021).

Practical details

Date and time: Saturday September 23, 2023 at 7 p.m.

Location: Espace Philippe-Auguste in Vernon (12, avenue Victor Hugo, 27200), Vikings room

Free and free entry within the limit of available places

Information on the website of the Center for Vernon Studies:

or on the Espace Philippe-Auguste website

John Walker Avatar