Airbus Introduces Earth Observation Satellites for the French Armed Forces

Airbus, a leader in the aerospace sector has built CSO-2 (Composante Spatial Optique) Earth observation satellites for the French Armed Forces. These satellites have been successfully launched on a Soyuz launcher from the Kourou European Spaceport in French Guyana.

CSO-2 is the second of the three-satellite CSO constellation, which will provide extremely high-resolution geoinformation intelligence to the French Armed Forces and its partners in the frame of the MUSIS cooperation programme (Multinational Space-based Imaging System for surveillance, reconnaissance and observation). The CSO satellites are equipped with a very agile pointing system and are controlled via a secure ground control operations centre. The constellation will offer 3D and very high-resolution imaging capability, in visible and infrared bandwidths, enabling acquisition during night and day and maximize the operational use.

The CSO-2 satellite, identical to CSO-1, will, however, be placed on a lower polar orbit at 480 km altitude, to fulfil the identification mission of the program.

As the 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 satellite to CNES. 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 the Armament General Directorate (DGA). The contract included an option for a third satellite, which was activated after Germany joined the program in 2015.

Providing the most modern and efficient observation capability for the safety of citizens, as well as the sovereignty and independence of France and Europe, CSO is a real game-changer in terms of resolution, complexity, the safety of transmission, reliability and availability. The satellite's tremendous agility and stability enable it to quickly provide users with extremely high-quality images from the Thales Alenia Space instrument, even for the most complex acquisition schedules.

Airbus has built on the decades of experience innovations and success which led to Helios 1, Pleiades, and Helios 2, and also 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.