Six people have been arrested in France on suspicion of spying on the Western European space program, space officials said Thursday.
The French government made no announcement of the arrests, but officials at both Arianespace, which builds, markets and launches the rocket for the European consortium, and the French National Center for Space Studies confirmed that the French counterespionage service had informed them of the arrests.
Two of the suspects are women of Eastern European origin, judicial sources said. Their French husbands and two other French nationals also were arrested. The foreign power they were accused of working for was not known, but one woman was an immigrant from Romania and the other from the Soviet Union.
The six are suspected of passing secrets relating to the design and construction of engines used to power Ariane rockets.
French counterespionage agents are seeking a seventh suspect, the sources said.
They said that one of the Frenchmen charged had been released under judicial supervision. Unconfirmed reports said he worked as a journalist for the right-wing Paris newspaper Le Figaro. Two of the others are engineering graduates of France's elite Ecole Polytechnique, the sources said.