PARIS — French space agency CNES has tripled its research and technology (R&T) budget from €42 million ($57 million) in 2005 to €131 million this year, representing roughly 17% of its budget outside of contributions to the European Space Agency (ESA), outgoing agency chief Yannick d’Escatha says.

By 2015 that figure is expected to grow to more than €150 million, according to Feb. 4 briefing slides that detail the agency’s estimated €1.6 billion budget for 2013 and selected highlights from d’Escatha’s decade-long tenure at CNES.

Despite decreasing budgets, CNES continues an effort to maintain internal and industrial competences through R&T and demonstrators, where the agency expects to add value to future developments through partnerships with ESA, other nations or on its own.

CNES attributes much of the R&T spending increase to savings achieved through a steady reduction in the agency’s operating costs since 2003. In the past three years alone CNES has lowered operating expenses from €157 million annually to an estimated €150 million in 2013, a trend the agency expects to flatten out over the next few years.

In addition to early design work on the Ariane 6 next-generation launch vehicle recently approved by ESA, CNES has several studies of future technologies under way, including a next-generation launch base, technologies for deorbiting the upper stage of the current Ariane 5 rocket, future cryogenic technologies, electric- and hybrid-propulsion strap-on boosters, and the capability to rendezvous with and capture noncooperative objects in orbit, among others.