Airbus Defence and Space

Security & Defence All programmes


Future optical reconnaissance satellites for the French Armed Forces and European partners

In December 2010 Airbus Defence and Space was awarded a contract for two satellites for the optical space component (CSO) that will replace the current Helios 2 military observation satellites used by the French armed forces and its partners (Belgium, Italy, Germany, Greece and Spain). The first CSO satellite is scheduled to enter orbit in 2016. The contract also includes an option for a third satellite.

As prime contractor for the CSO satellites programme, Airbus Defence and Space will provide the agile platform and avionics, and will also be responsible for the integration work, testing and delivery of the satellites to the French space agency CNES, acting on behalf of the French defence procurement agency (DGA). Thales Alenia Space will provide Airbus Defence and Space with the very-high resolution optical instrument.

Extensive use of new technologies will mean that the satellites will be 100 times more powerful than the current generation, all at reduced cost. Airbus Defence and Space has drawn on the latest technological advances and operational feedback from its entire fleet of reconnaissance satellites (35 low-orbit satellites totalling 350 years of in-orbit service) to cut costs by 30% over the last decade.

The latest generation of gyroscopic actuators, fibre optic gyroscopes, on-board electronics and control software will optimise the satellites’ weight and inertia and significantly increase pointing speed. The satellite will also carry a Galileo navigator developed by Airbus Defence and Space.

The satellites’ tremendous agility and stability will enable them to quickly provide users with extremely high-quality images, even for the most complex acquisition schedules.