As shown in this image of Manila, Philippines, Airbus' brightens colors and sharpens details in 30-centimeter-resolution Pleiades Neo imagery for a high-resolution product called Pleiades Neo HD15. Credit: Airbus

Kissimmee, Fla. – Airbus will continue to improve sensors in its Pleiades Neo Next constellation rather than duplicating the capabilities of the two Pleiades Neo satellites in orbit.

“We are committed to continuing and to enhancing this constellation,” Eric Even, Airbus Defence and Space head of integrated space solutions, told SpaceNews.

Airbus established the Pleiades Neo Next program in early 2024 and announced plans April 29 for the first space-based sensor. Airbus has not yet said how or when it will launch the first Pleiades Neo Next satellite, nor how many Pleiades Neo Next satellites there will be. The Pleiades Neo Next program is expected to run until 2040.

Pleiades Neo satellites, launched in 2021, offer 30-centimeter resolution. Resolution for Pleiades Neo Next will be better. Even declined to reveal the precise resolution.

Better Imagery

“We want to enhance the constellation with a better product because it’s coming some years after the launch failure,” Even said. “We add an additional sensor. It’s a bit better. And the next one will be a bit better.”

Like Pleiades Neo, Pleiades Neo Next will gather imagery in six spectral bands: red, green, blue, near infrared and deep blue. Both sensors observe 14-kilometer swaths.

In preparation for Pleiades Neo Next, Airbus is upgrading its Earth-observation ground segment. Pleiades Neo Next imagery, like Pleiades Neo imagery, will flow directly to OneAtlas, Airbus’ cloud-based platform.

When it reaches OneAtlas, Pleiades Neo and Pleiades Neo Next data will be ready for interpretation by Airbus’ artificial intelligence tools or third-party AI tools, Even said.

Strong Demand

The loss of two Pleiades Neo satellites in a 2022 ArianeSpace Vega C launch failure was a significant setback for Airbus.

“The team was devastated after devoting years” to the Pleiades Neo program, Even said. “That’s why it is so important to stand up and be resilient after that.”

Airbus has seen strong demand for data from its Pleiades Neo satellites.

“Last year, which was our first full year of operation with two birds, demand was absolutely amazing,” Even said. “We were very proud that we could deliver in an outstanding manner and an outstanding amount of data even though we only had two satellites. The entire production chain, including the ground segment, is working really great.”

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...