August 1, 2008

1st Pleiades telescope in sight

With delivery of the 1st Pleiades telescope set for 31 July, the ORFEO Earth-observation programme is advancing apace. The French-built optical component of this system will supply global imagery at resolutions down to 70 cm. Pleiades will also be a dual-use system serving civil and military applications.
25 July 2008

Unique agility

The Pleiades constellation will consist of 2 identical satellites capable of imaging Earth at resolutions down to 70 cm. Pleaides forms the optical component of the ORFEO Earth-observation programme. The radar component is being supplied by Italy’s Cosmo-Skymed programme, which already has 2 satellites in orbit.

“The telescope for the 1st Pleaides satellite is currently undergoing final tests,” says Eric Boussarie, Pleiades Project Leader at CNES. “We’re well satisfied because it’s performing even better than expected. Delivery of the telescope on 31 July will be a key milestone in its integration on the satellite.”

The extremely agile satellites will afford stereo and tri-stereo viewing. “Each satellite can easily steer its sensors along and off track,” explains Eric Boussarie. “We will be able to obtain images of a point from 3 angles, just before, as and after the satellite passes overhead. This will provide a much clearer picture of terrain relief.”

Serving civil and military users

Another major innovation of Pleaides is that it will serve both civil and military applications. “The satellite control centre will be located at CNES in Toulouse,” says Eric Boussarie.

“The partner nations sharing military data, Italy and Spain, will each have a mission centre on site. The civil partner nations, Austria, Belgium and Sweden, will be supplied by Spot Image, the commercial operator of the SPOT satellites for the last 20 years.”

And that’s not all. Receiving stations could sprout up around the globe to serve Spot Image customers looking to receive imagery in real time. For the moment, there are still a lot of phases to be completed before the system is operational. The 1st Pleaides satellite will launch no earlier than the start of 2010 and the 2nd is expected to follow 18 months later.

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