Airbus Defence and Space

Spirale accepted by the French Armament Procurement Agency (DGA)

Paris, 15 May 2009 - The French Armament Procurement Agency (DGA) has confirmed to Airbus Defence and Space that it has accepted the Spirale space-based early warning system demonstrator.

Since it was placed into orbit in February, the Spirale system has acquired more than 300,000 images of the Earth in several infrared bands – images that have been processed at the ground warning station. Due to the wealth and variety of images taken and processed by the demonstrator, Spirale’s contribution to our knowledge of natural phenomena has already proved decisive.

Developed by Airbus Defence and Space for the DGA, the Spirale satellite system is a demonstrator that will pave the way for the future operational space-based early warning system. The need for this system was specified and confirmed in the French government’s new white paper on defence and national security, and its development is included in the French military budget law that is currently being reviewed.

The first simulations based on actual images provided by Spirale will allow an initial estimate to be made regarding the dimensioning of the most important macroscopic parameters, such as resolution. Early results are validating the “demonstrator” approach adopted by the DGA, and will be confirmed and refined over the months ahead.

The Spirale system consists of two micro-satellites from the Myriade family, developed by the CNES and built by Thales Alenia Space. The two satellites are flying in formation in a geostationary transfer orbit (perigee 600 km – apogee 36,000 km). Spirale also includes the ground control and mission segments based at the Airbus Defence and Space site in Toulouse. Development of the system began in January 2004 and Spirale was then deployed in orbit during February and March 2009. This followed the successful launch of both satellites by an Ariane launcher from Kourou, French Guiana, on 12 February 2009.

In addition to supplying and commissioning the demonstrator for the DGA, Airbus Defence and Space will continue to work on Spirale through to autumn 2010 – operating the mission and freezing the specification for the future operational space-based early warning system.


Airbus Defence and Space, a wholly owned subsidiary of AIRBUS Group, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2008, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover of €4.3 billion and more than 15,000 employees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Its three main areas of activity are Airbus Defence and Space for launchers and orbital infrastructure, Airbus Defence and Space for spacecraft and ground segment and Airbus Defence and Space for the development and delivery of satellite services.

AIRBUS Group is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2008, AIRBUS Group generated revenues of €43.3 billion and employed a workforce of more than 118, 000.


Press contact:

Daniel Mosely (Airbus Defence and Space UK)             Tel.: +44 (0)1 438 77 8180

Future space-based defence systemsSpirale