At a meeting of its Board of Directors 2 October 2003, CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) awarded EADS-Astrium a contract worth €314 million to build two Pleiades satellites. Alcatel Space will supply the high-resolution instruments.

The Pleiades HR satellites are the high-resolution optical imaging component of the French-Italian Orfeo system, for which Italy is supplying the Cosmo-Skymed radar component.

Orfeo is a dual-use civil/military system. The first satellite will be launched mid-2008 and the second in 2009. The two satellites will form a constellation in Sun-synchronous orbit.

EADS-Astrium has been made programme prime contractor and will manufacture the spacecraft buses; Alcatel Space is responsible for the high-resolution instruments and image telemetry.

These new satellites will ensure continuity of the service provided by the SPOT series, with the capability to acquire the same wide-swath panchromatic and multispectral imagery.

The satellites will also bring a number of significant technological advances:

  • they are much more compact than their predecessors;
  • ground resolution will be 70 centimetres across a 20-kilometre swath;
  • a very high degree of agility will allow them to acquire several images successively along track or off track, for mosaicking of ground scenes;
  • onboard storage capacity has been increased to 600 gigabits and the downlink data rate to 450 megabits per second.

The 1,000-kilogram satellites will have a design lifetime of five years and onboard power capacity of 1,000 watts.

CNES President Yannick d’Escatha said: “I am delighted that the Pleaides programme is now underway. Its many innovations illustrate CNES’s creative energies and manufacturers’ technological capabilities. I would like to congratulate everyone involved for working so hard together to strengthen French and European expertise in Earth observation.”

Press contacts

CNES – Sandra Laly – Phone +33 (0)1 44 76 77 32

EADS-Astrium – Rémi Roland – Phone +33 (0)1 34 88 35 78

Alcatel Space – Laurent Zimmermann – Phone +33 (0)1 46 52 64 68