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Pleiades 1A in orbit!

17 December 2011

With a very-high-resolution optical imaging instrument provided by Thales Alenia Space

Kourou, December 17, 2011 – Pleiades 1A, the first new-generation observation satellite operated by French space agency CNES was orbited today by Arianespace on-board a Soyuz launcher from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana. Thales Alenia Space was responsible for 45% of this satellite, working for industrial prime contractor Astrium.

The Pleiades satellites are dedicated to dual (military/civil) observation applications. They feature an optical instrument with an aperture of 65 cm, built by Thales Alenia Space, and providing multispectral views in the visible and near-infrared bands, with very high resolution (70 cm) and a swath width of 20 km. This instrument is three times smaller than previous onboard optical instruments, thanks to a new technology of highly integrated detection subassemblies, plus an ultra-stable carbon composite structure and Zerodur mirrors. This compact architecture means that the satellite offers an improvement in terms of tilting capacity, for fast pointing and thus greater operational flexibility. The two flight models of this optical instrument for the Pleiades satellites were delivered to Astrium in July 2008 and November 2009.

The HR instrument on Pleiades is just the latest in a long line of cutting-edge optical instruments, unrivaled in Europe, developed and built by Thales Alenia Space for Earth observation. These instruments include the very-high-geometric-resolution instruments on the Helios 1 and 2 military satellites, the wide-swath Vegetation instruments on the Spot satellites, the Meris spectral and radiometric high-resolution instruments on Europe's Envisat environmental satellite, the IASI (Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer) spectral very-high-resolution interferometer on Eumetsat's MetOp satellites, and the ultrasensitive infrared sensors on Spiral demonstrators for the DGA.

In addition to the optical payload for Pleiades satellites, Thales Alenia Space also supplied the encryption/decryption module for the uplinks and downlinks, directly calling on its experience on the Syracuse 2 military communications satellites, as well as the gallium arsenide solar arrays and the very-high-rate image telemetry (450 Mbps).

The Pleiades satellites are French dual-use observation satellites which will meet the needs of both civil and military users in Europe for a wide range of applications, including mapping, urban development, hydrology, geophysics, vulcanology, etc. Furthermore, a French Italian agreement will allow users to have access to datas provided by the four Italian COSMO-SkyMed radar observation satellites, developed by Thales Alenia Space Italy and launched from 2007 to 2010.

"With this major contribution to Pleiades, Thales Alenia Space is proud of once again being able to contribute our expertise in optical imaging systems to CNES and Astrium," said Reynald Seznec, President and CEO of Thales Alenia Space. "The second Pleiades HR instrument and two IASI sounding interferometers are to be launched in the coming months and years, followed by the optical space component launches, thus confirming the long-term viability of our partnership. Our European leadership in high-performance optical systems, along with our position as a world-class supplier of space radars and altimeters, makes Thales Alenia Space a pivotal partner in all new Earth observation programs."

About Thales Alenia Space
The European leader in satellite systems and a major player in orbital infrastructures, Thales Alenia Space is a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Finmeccanica (33%). Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio embody the two groups’ “Space Alliance”. Thales Alenia Space sets the global standard in solutions for space telecommunications, radar and optical Earth observation, defense and security, navigation and science. With consolidated revenues of 2 billion euros in 2010, Thales Alenia Space has 7,200 employees at 10 industrial sites in France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Belgium.

Thales Alenia Space Press Contact
Sandrine Bielecki
Tel: +33 (0)4 92 92 70 94

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