French Military: Third Satellite Possible Under $1.1 Billion Optical Space Contract

[Satellite TODAY Insider 12-03-10] Astrium and Thales Alenia Space will build two high-resolution reconnaissance satellites for the French Defense Ministry under a $1.1 billion contract issued to the manufacturers Nov. 30, Astrium announced Dec. 2.
    The satellite are part of France’s Optical Space Component program to combine Europe’s optical and radar satellite capabilities with a single ground network to support civil defense operations.
    The contract also includes an option for a third satellite, which, according to the French Defense Ministry, could be contracted if other European nations elect to join the French CSO program. “These two satellites will constitute the space optical component of the future program for space imagery for defense and security, known as Multinational Space-based System, due to be realized with Germany, Belgium, Spain, Greece and Italy,” the French Defense Ministry said in a statement.
    Astrium will provide the satellites’ platforms and avionics as well as integration and testing. Thales Alenia Space will provide high-resolution optical imaging cameras. The French Space Agency (CNES) will act as contract manager on the project for the French Defense Ministry and will be responsible for securing two separate launch contracts for the spacecraft. While those contracts have yet to be announced, CNES said it would look into Arianespace’s available launch portfolio at the French Guiana Space Center Spaceport in 2016 as an option.
     The satellites, based on Astrium’s AstroSat 1000 platform, will replace Helios 2A and Helios 2BM launched in December 2004 and December 2009, respectively. CNES said the new satellites would include enhanced sensors designed to quickly identify smaller targets and deliver a greater amount of information. While the French military originally planned for Helios 2’s replacements to launch in 2014 or 2015, officials said the results of an internal study showed that the existing Helios 2 satellites could meet military requirements until early 2017.

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