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France’s CSO-1 military observation satellite in orbit

Thales Alenia Space is prime contractor for instruments on CSO and Europe’s other main satellite systems for defense and security

Cannes – WEBWIRE

The CSO-1 military observation satellite was successfully launched today by Arianespace, using a Soyuz rocket from the Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Developed for the French Ministry for the Armed Forces by French space agency CNES, delegated as contracting authority by French defense procurement agency DGA, it was built by Airbus Defence and Space, and features a very-high-resolution optical observation instrument built by Thales Alenia Space.

CSO is a military observation program comprising three satellites in Sun-synchronous orbit, deployed by France to succeed the two Helios 2 satellites operated by the armed forces for more than ten years. Providing higher resolution and day/night imaging, it will support the country’s military operations. The satellite also offers greater operational agility, and is capable of taking series of views over a given crisis zone, thus increasing the number of images acquired in a single passage.

As for the six satellites in the Helios 1, Helios 2 and Pleiades families, Thales Alenia Space supplies the very-high-resolution optical instrument for the three CSO satellites, and also developed key equipment such as the solar arrays, high-speed image telemetry and the encryption and decryption module for uplinks and downlinks.

The CSO instrument features major technological advances in relation to Helios 2, including new visible and infrared band detectors, more highly integrated video electronics, new cooling mechanisms for the infrared channel and a new ceramic framework for the telescope to guarantee exceptional stability. Compared with the instrument on Helios 2, the CSO instrument is 30% larger with twice as many parts for significantly higher resolution images, but development time was cut by 40%. CSO is considered the largest and most complex “space camera” ever developed in Europe. It can take ultra-precise images day or night, even while traveling at 25,000 kilometers per hour and at a distance of about 800 kilometers above the scenes it is shooting.

“The launch of a satellite like CSO is a major event for France and our country’s defense,” said Jean Loic Galle, President and Chief Executive Officer of Thales Alenia Space. “It plays a critical role for France and our partners, who will be able to call on an even more powerful observation system, to continue and enhance the services offered by Helios 2A and 2B. We have ambitious goals for CSO, an extraordinary program indeed, and it will deliver exceptional performance. The teams at Thales Alenia Space and our industrial partners met the technological challenges involved in the development and production of this payload, the real ‘brains’ of the satellite, working closely with the experts at CNES and DGA. Our colleagues at Telespazio, reporting to CNES, will also play a major role in operating the satellite. This expertise, which draws on an array of very rare strategic skills, is unrivaled in Europe. These skills were deployed to support French defense capabilities, and were also leveraged via export contracts and new developments concerning observation satellites featuring very high revisit rates, that complement the services offered by CSO.”

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