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CSO-2 satellite in orbit

Latest success reflects the excellence of Europe’s optical observation spacecraft


Cannes, December 29, 2020 – Following the launch of CSO-1 in December 2018, the CSO-2 military observation satellite was successfully launched today by Arianespace using a Soyuz rocket from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Featuring a very-high-resolution optical instrument built by Thales Alenia Space, the joint company between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), the satellite was developed by Airbus Defence and Space as prime contractor for the Armament General Directorate (DGA), with French space agency CNES as delegated contracting authority.

CSO, the optical space component



Developed within the scope of MUSIS (Multinational Space-based Imaging System for surveillance, reconnaissance and observation), the CSO (Composante Spatiale Optique) family comprises three observation satellites in Sun-synchronous orbit, each fitted with a very-high-resolution optical instrument. This system, a successor to Helios 2, is intended for French defense applications, and will help enhance the country’s capabilities in intelligence and operational support. Featuring higher image resolution than the previous generation, the instrument operates day and night, and also offers greater agility to take successive images of crisis zones. In addition, it can deliver a greater number of images taken in a single pass over a given zone.

Thales Alenia Space supplies the very-high-resolution optical observation instrument for the three CSO satellites, as it did for the six satellites in the Helios 1, Helios 2 and Pleiades families.

The company also developed key equipment, including the solar arrays, high-throughput image telemetry, the encryption/decryption modules for uplinks and downlinks as well as the telemetry, tracking and command transponders.

The most powerful “space camera” ever built in Europe



The CSO instrument offers significant improvements over Helios 2, including new detectors in the visible and infrared bands, more highly integrated video electronics, a new cooling system for the infrared channel and a new ceramic frame for the telescope to ensure exceptional stability. Robust, reliable and stable, the very-high-resolution optical instrument on CSO satellites can take razor-sharp photos of scenes despite the highly demanding orbital environment, while traveling at 25,000 km/hour from Low Earth orbit.

“Today we are celebrating the launch of CSO-2, featuring the most powerful ‘space camera’ ever built in Europe,” said Hervé Derrey, President and Chief Executive Officer of Thales Alenia Space. “We are very proud to have built its telephoto lens and electronics, the brains of the satellite. To develop this instrument, we called on the full sum of our experience in building the optical instruments for the six satellites in the Helios 1, Helios 2 and Pleiades families, allowing us to offer an instrument with unrivaled performance.”


“This year has been an extremely successful one for Thales Alenia Space’s Earth observation activities,” said Massimo Comparini, Head of the Observation, Exploration and Navigation business at Thales Alenia Space. “After having won five contracts for Europe’s vast environmental monitoring program, Copernicus Expansion, including three as prime, one contract to build two additional COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation satellites, we’re closing out the year on a high note with this impressive launch. The CSO-2 instrument is the state-of-the-art in very-high-resolution optical payloads for intelligence and defense operations support.”


Artistic Views © Thales Alenia Space/Master Image Programmes


Drawing on over 40 years of experience and a unique combination of skills, expertise and cultures, Thales Alenia Space delivers cost-effective solutions for telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, environmental management, exploration, science and orbital infrastructures. Governments and private industry alike count on Thales Alenia Space to design satellite-based systems that provide anytime, anywhere connections and positioning, monitor our planet, enhance management of its resources, and explore our Solar System and beyond. Thales Alenia Space sees space as a new horizon, helping to build a better, more sustainable life on Earth. A joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), Thales Alenia Space also teams up with Telespazio to form the parent companies’ Space Alliance, which offers a complete range of services. Thales Alenia Space posted consolidated revenues of approximately 2.15 billion euros in 2019 and has around 7,700 employees in nine countries.



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