The First of Three Military Imaging Satellites Launched by France

PARIS, France ( — The first of three identical military imaging satellites has been launched by France. It is expected all three satellites to reach full operational capability at the end of 2021, when they will replace the aging Helios system and provide 800 very high-resolution black and white, colour, and infrared images per day for the needs of European military and civilian intelligence agencies, learned

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CSO-1 (Composante Spatiale Optique, meaning: Optical Space Component), made by Airbus Defence and Space together with Thales Alenia Space, was launched by a Soyuz rocket on 19th December 2018 from the European space base in Kourou, French Guiana, with a delay of 24 hours due to high-altitude winds. The launch marked the first step in the French Armed Forces Ministry’s five-year €3.6 billion plan for complete renovation of its spaceborne capabilities. CSO-2 is planned to be launched in May 2020, and CSO-3 – in October 2021.

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The weight of CSO-1 is 3.5-ton satellite. It is a very high-resolution observation satellite, which will orbit Earth at an altitude of 800 km.

The CSO system is worth €1.485 million and is being completed by the SSM ground mission base in Toulouse, southwest France, which is operated by the CNES French government space agency, together with the SSU ground user centre at the CMOS Military Centre for Observation by Satellite at the 1/92 Bourgogne French Air Force Base in Creil, north of Paris.

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All image requests from France and CSO partners (Belgium, Germany, Sweden, and Italy that will sign up in early 2019) will be received and prioritized by CMOS centre. The images from the CSO system will be downloadable every 90 minutes. Presently, the images from the Helios system are downloadable every six hours.

Gilles Chalon, director of the CNES observation service, commented at the launch, “This will considerably shorten the time lapse between a request being issued and the image being received by the client.”

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CSO is part of the Europe’s €1.75 billion MUSIS (Multinational Space-based Imaging System). The initiative was started at the end of 2006. It involves Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Spain and its goal is to replace all of Europe’s military, space-based observation systems: the two optical Helios II military satellites and two optical Pleiades dual satellites of France, SAR-Lupe five-satellite military radar system of Germany, and the Cosmo-Skymed four-satellite dual-radar system of Italy.

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Source: Defense News