Thales2009-11-19 09:06:57

Thales Alenia Space to deliver second flight model very-high-resolution optical imaging instrument to EADS Astrium for European Pleiades program

Thales Alenia Space has delivered the second flight model high-resolution (HR) optical imaging instrument for integration, testing and validation in the Pleiades earth observation satellite in construction at Astrium facilities in Toulouse.

As prime contractor for the Pleiades system - in particular the ground segment - CNES selected Astrium as satellite prime contractor and Thales Alenia Space for the imaging instruments. The dual-technology program addresses both military and civil needs for European users, including mapping, volcano monitoring, geophysical and hydrology studies, urban planning, etc. The Pleiades project is part of ORFEO*, a joint Franco-Italian initiative by the countries' national space agencies CNES and ASI, marking a major technological advance in optical earth observation systems.

The Pleiades optical high-resolution imaging instruments offers enhanced resolution of
70 cm over a wide swath (20 km) in both the visible and near infrared bands. This very high resolution instrument also introduces significant innovations such as the highly-integrated detection sub-assemblies (SEDHI), while also reducing volume three-fold compared to previous generations. The instrument provides very high dimensional stability thanks to a concept combining a carbon/carbon structure (material insensitive to moisture and with a very low coefficient of thermal expansion) and Zerodur mirrors. To optimise in-flight performance, the instrument has an innovative thermal refocusing system, eliminating the need for a complex mechanism. All these high technologies plus the satellite's own enhanced performance (satellite pointing/tilting capabilities, downlink transmission rate of 450 Mbit/s) means a significant increase in mission performances.

The first flight model instrument was delivered in July 2008 and has been integrated in the satellite. It is now to the second flight model instrument to start the integration campaign at Astrium's facility in Toulouse.

The two Pleiades observation satellites have a design life of five years and offer a high degree of in-orbit agility thanks to their maneuvering capability. They will be able to acquire a series of images both along the swath or across the swath to create a veritable mosaic of ground scenes. Images exploitation will be provided by Spot Image, subsidiary of Astrium.

The Pleiades contract confirms Thales Alenia Space's position as the European leader in very-high performance, very-high resolution imaging instruments. The new instrument leverages the broad array of competencies that Thales Alenia Space has developed during major programs, including payloads for Helios 1 & 2 for very high geometric resolution, the Vegetation instrument (on board Spot 4 and 5) and the MERIS instrument (on board Envisat) for high-resolution geometric and radiometric imaging of land and ocean surfaces. Thales Alenia Space also built the Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Instrument (IASI) on board METOP, enabling French national weather service Météo France to significantly improve weather forecasting accuracy.

* Optical and Radar Federated Earth Observation

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