India To Launch Astrium’s Spot 6 Imaging Satellite

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PARIS — India’s PSLV rocket will launch the Spot 6 commercial Earth observation satellite for Astrium Services of Europe late this year under a contract announced April 3 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The 800-kilogram satellite, intended to operate from a near-polar low Earth orbit at 694 kilometers in altitude, will be accompanied on the launch by several other payloads that ISRO did not identify.

Astrium Services is building and launching the identical Spot 6 and Spot 7 satellites using its own funds, with no assistance — nor any guarantee of future image purchases — by the French government. Astrium officials have said they expect to spend about 300 million euros ($400 million) to build and launch the two spacecraft.

Spot 7 is scheduled for launch in 2014, with a launch vehicle yet to be announced.

Spot 6 and Spot 7 will replace the larger Spot 5 satellite, which was launched in 2002 and has been operating beyond its contracted in-orbit service life since 2008. Spot 5 has been the principal revenue generator for Astrium Geo-Information Services, the Astrium Services division that commercializes Earth observation imagery.

Spot 6 and Spot 7 are expected to operate 180 degrees apart in low Earth orbit, much as the higher-resolution Pleiades satellites, the first of which was launched in December. The French government financed development of the two Pleiades satellites, and Astrium Geo-Information Services is commercializing Pleiades imagery.

Spot 6 and Spot 7 will be capable of distinguishing objects of 1.5 meters in diameter in black and white, and 6 meters in color. The images will have a swath width of 60 kilometers, like the previous Spot spacecraft, but will be more agile. The satellites will be able to move the imager up to 45 degrees off nadir back and forth to capture views in front of and behind the satellite, and up to 35 degrees off nadir from side to side.

ISRO said the agreement between Astrium and ISRO’s Antrix commercial arm is part of a long-term cooperation agreement signed in September 2008. The same collaborative accord covered the construction of the Hylas 1 Ka-band broadband satellite operated by Avanti Communications of London. ISRO and Antrix built the Hylas 1 satellite structure, or bus, with Astrium providing the telecommunications payload.

 

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