Vega Launch Booked for Kazakh Earth-imaging Sat

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PARIS — Kazakhstan’s DZZ-HR optical Earth observation satellite will be launched aboard Europe’s new Vega small-satellite vehicle in mid-2014 under a contract announced June 20 by the Arianespace launch consortium of Evry, France.

The 900-kilogram DZZ-HR is under construction by Astrium of France as part of a broad space-cooperation agreement signed by the French and Kazakh heads of state in 2010. It will be able to detect objects as small as 1 meter in diameter from a sun-synchronous orbit 750 kilometers in altitude.

DZZ-HR will be operated by Kazakh engineers. As part of the bilateral cooperation agreement, Astrium’s Toulouse, France, satellite production facility is training Kazakh engineers in satellite operations and control. Astrium and its Toulouse-based Intespace satellite test affiliate are building a satellite integration center in Astana, Kazakhstan.

The Astrium contract with Kazakhstan, valued at 230 million euros, or $336 million in 2010, also included the construction and launch of a second, smaller satellite to be built by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) of Britain, which is owned by Astrium.

The SSTL-built satellite will have a broader ground swath and will carry an imager capable of detecting objects 7 meters or larger in diameter.

The DZZ-HR contract is the third for Vega. The Italian-led small-satellite launcher conducted its successful inaugural flight in February, placing a small science payload and eight microsatellites into two separate orbits following launch from Europe’s Guiana Space Center, in French Guiana on the northeast coast of South America. The first two contracts are for the launch of European civil Earth observation satellites.