Europe’s first military optical reconnaissance system
The Helios programme is Europe’s first military optical reconnaissance system, jointly funded by the French, Italian and Spanish governments, and consists of a space segment and a user ground segment. It can acquire high-resolution images of any point on the globe, with a daily revisit capability. The satellite work plan is set up daily in response to requests from the individual Helios partner countries.
The first of the two satellites, Helios 1A, was launched in 1995, followed in 1999 by Helios 1B. While Helios 1B was retired in 2004 after its nominal end of life, Helios 1A is still fully operational.
The French Ministry of Defence procurement agency DGA and the French national space agency CNES selected Airbus Defence and Space as prime contractor for the satellites – constructing and integrating the satellite bus and payload, supplying the attitude and orbit control system and developing the flight software and electrical ground support equipment – as well as for the user ground segment.