Dec 03, 2012– Cannes, France (Techreleased) – Pléiades 1B, the second new-generation observation satellite for French Space Agency CNES, was successfully launched yesterday by Arianespace, onboard a Soyuz launcher from the Guiana Space Center. Thales Alenia Space was responsible for 45% of this satellite, under a subcontract given by Astrium, the satellite’s prime contractor. The Pléiades satellites are the first French dual-use observation satellites designed to meet the wide-ranging needs of both civil and military users in Europe, including mapping, urban development, hydrology, geophysics, vulcanology, etc. The first satellite in this family, Pléiades 1A, was successfully launched in December 2011.
The Pléiades observation satellites feature an optical instrument with an aperture of 65 cm, built by Thales Alenia Space, and providing multispectral views in the visible and near-infrared bands, with very high resolution (70 cm) and a swath width of 20 km. This instrument is three times smaller than previous onboard optical instruments, thanks to a new technology of highly integrated detection subassemblies, plus an ultra-stable carbon composite structure and Zerodur mirrors. Because of this compact design, the satellite also improved tilting capacity, for fast pointing and thus greater operational flexibility.
The HR instrument on Pléiades is just the latest in a long line of cutting-edge optical instruments, unrivaled in Europe, developed and built by Thales Alenia Space for Earth observation. These instruments include the very-high-geometric-resolution instruments on the Helios 1 and 2 military satellites, the wide-swath Vegetation instruments on the Spot satellites, the Meris spectral and radiometric high-resolution instruments on Europe’s Envisat environmental satellite, the IASI (Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer) spectral very-high-resolution interferometer on Eumetsat’s MetOp satellites, and the ultrasensitive infrared sensors on Spirale demonstrators for French DOD (DGA).
In addition to the optical payload, Thales Alenia Space also supplied Pléiades’ gallium arsenide solar arrays and the very-high-rate image telemetry (450 Mbps) as well as the encryption/decryption module for the uplinks and downlinks, drawing directly on its experience with the Syracuse 2 military communications satellites. Thales Alenia Space España supplied the Telemetry, Tracking & Command system equipment.
“Together with French Space Agency CNES and Astrium, we are delighted to contribute to the Pléiades 1B successful launch by providing our expertise in high-resolution optical instruments” said Jean-Loïc Galle, Thales Alenia Space President & CEO. “Given our European leadership in high performance optical systems, and our position as a world-class supplier of space radars and altimeters, Thales Alenia Space continues to be a pivotal partner in all new Earth observation programs.”