CANNES, France — Satellite builder Thales Alenia Space, hoping to expand its share of the growing global market among developing nations for high-resolution Earth observation satellites, has agreed to invest 8 million euros ($10.4 million) in a new observation satellite production facility.
The 600-square-meter facility, planned for the company’s sprawling production facility in Cannes, France, incongruously located on beachfront property near downtown, will be built next to a similar facility dedicated for military observation satellites.
Thales Alenia Space has built the optical imaging payloads for France’s Helios military and Pleiades civil/military Earth observation satellites and has begun work on a post-Helios system of two satellites called the Optical Space Component.
But all these have been built in partnership with rival Airbus Defence and Space, which has built the satellites’ platforms. The same relationship won military observation satellite contracts for the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Morocco.
Thales and Airbus have now begun a gradual parting of company, with each developing hardware formerly provided by the other. Airbus’ recent win of a contract in Peru was done without Thales involvement.
Jean-Michel Capelli, director of the Thales facility in Cannes, said the dedicated facility for observation satellites for the export market should be completed by late 2015.
Thales has developed both a radar and an optical capability, with its Italian division focusing on radar.
Thales officials this year said they had revamped their product lines for observation satellite exports with the HRS1 instrument for submetric-resolution optical observation and the Compact SAR instrument for low-weight radar systems.