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Airbus enhances military Earth observation capabilities for EU partners

artists impression of pleiades satellite

Airbus Defence and Space successfully launched the first of the company’s CSO Earth observation satellites to support the French Armed Forces from the Kourou European Spaceport in French Guiana.

CSO will provide very high resolution geo information intelligence to the French Armed Forces and its partners Germany, Belgium and Sweden. The CSO satellites are equipped with a very agile pointing system and are controlled via a secure ground control operations centre. 

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As prime contractor for the CSO satellites program, Airbus has provided the agile platform and avionics, and was also responsible for the integration work, testing and delivery of the satellites to CNES.

Nicolas Chamussy, head of Airbus space systems, welcomed the successful launch: "Thanks to our enduring expertise and close partnership with the French MoD since the beginning of the French Space adventure, as well as the tremendous support across industry and partners, especially Thales Alenia Space, we did it!"

Thales Alenia Space provided Airbus with the very-high resolution optical instrument. Airbus teams will also continue leading the user ground segment operations, as they do currently with operating legacy programs (Helios, Pleiades, SarLupe, Cosmo-Skymed).

Airbus was awarded the CSO contract at the end of 2010 by CNES, the French space agency acting on behalf of DGA, the French Defence Procurement Agency. The contract included an option for a third satellite, which was activated after Germany joined the program in 2015.

"For decades, Airbus, as well as other industrial partners, has been developing new technologies, instruments, platforms, secured networks, to successfully provide Helios 1, Pleiades, and Helios 2 systems for the benefit of French and European sovereignty," Chamussy said. 

Airbus has made use of the latest generation of gyroscopic actuators, fibre optic gyroscopes, on-board electronics and control software to optimise weight and inertia and significantly increase the pointing speed.

Airbus enhances military Earth observation capabilities for EU partners
Artists-impression-of-Pleiades-satellite.jpg
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