Arianespace on Tuesday launched the French military’s CSO-2 reconnaissance satellite that will orbit the Earth at a distance of 480km.
The CSO next-generation Earth imaging satellites will replace France's aging Helios 1 and 2 systems. They will be fully deployed by 2022.
CSO-2 (Optical Space Component-2 or Composante Spatiale Optique-2) is the second in a constellation of three identical military observation satellites that will operate in different polar orbits to accomplish two missions: reconnaissance for CSO-1 and CSO-3, and identification for CSO-2.
The 3,562kg satellite built by Airbus launched on December 29 will be joining CSO-1 launched two years ago (800-km orbit). It was launched by a Russia’s Soyuz rocket from Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana in South America.
It (CSO-2) will acquire very-high-resolution day/night, clear-weather imagery in the visible and infrared in a range of viewing modes to serve a broad spectrum of operational requirements, officials with the French space agency CNES, said in a statement.
The defense ministry said CSO-1 placed in an orbit of 800km allows the military to process greater number of targets. CSO-2 positioned in a lower orbit provides better resolution such as locate the presence of weaponry transported by a vehicle in an urban environment. CSO-3 will be at present at a distance of 800km from the Earth to complete the reconnaissance mission. The three satellites are capable of acquiring more than 800 images per day.
The cost of the $2.21 billion (€1.8 billion) CSO program developed under MUSIS (Multinational space-based imaging system) project will be distributed among European partners- Germany, Sweden, Belgium and Italy. Discussions are underway with other nations to strengthen European cooperation in the military space field.