Airbus Defence and Space

Security & Defence Press releases

Spirale, the space-borne early warning system: two million images collected in its first year of operations by Airbus Defence and Space

  • The demonstrator has already surpassed the initial goals of the DGA

  • Thanks to its excellent performance, the Spirale mission will be extended beyond its initially planned duration


Toulouse, 15 June, 2010 Airbus Defence and Space recently completed its first full year of operations with the Spirale system, following its acceptance in April 2009 by the DGA (French armament procurement agency). The acquisition and analysis of infrared satellite data has been a complete success. Airbus Defence and Space acted as prime contractor for the design and development of Spirale, which uses two micro-satellites from the Myriade product line to collect infrared images against land and cloud backgrounds from a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).


Despite the harsh environment of its orbit, which passes through the Van Allen radiation belt, Spirale has surpassed the objectives of the demonstration phase, both in terms of the volume and the level of detail of the acquired data. In its first year in orbit, Spirale collected more than two million images.


"We've now established precise characteristics for radiation from a wide variety of backgrounds and natural phenomena, such as sunlight reflected off clouds," explained Jean Dauphin, Director Earth Observation and Sciences at Airbus Defence and Space France. "This has allowed us to identify potential sources of false alarms for missile launches and find ways to overcome them. We also have a much better understanding of how these phenomena can hinder the detection of ballistic missile launches."



Image taken against a cloud background over the Atlantic Ocean from the GTO. Many different types of cloud layers can be distinguished. Thanks to its treatments, the space-borne early warning system can detect missile launches. Copyright: Airbus Defence and Space


The results have convinced the French defence ministry that the space-borne early warning system is capable of obtaining the data required to detect and locate ballistic missile launches. The demonstrator’s now proven, excellent reliability has also made it possible to extend its original mission life, permitting the collection of even more images and a more detailed analysis of the performance that can be expected from a fully operational space-borne warning system.



About Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space, a wholly owned subsidiary of AIRBUS Group, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2009, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover of €4.8 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 provision of secure and commercial satcoms and networks, high security satellite communications equipment, geo-information products and services, and navigation services.


AIRBUS Group is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2009, AIRBUS Group generated revenues of €42.8 billion and employed a workforce of more than 119, 000.


Press contacts:

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

Matthieu Duvelleroy (Airbus Defence and Space FR)                                              Tel.: +33 (0) 1 77 75 80 32

Ralph Heinrich (Airbus Defence and Space GER)                                                   Tel.: +49 (0) 89 607 33971

Francisco Lechón (Airbus Defence and Space SP)                                                 Tel.: +34 91 586 37 41 



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