Further enhancing Europe’s reconnaissance capability
Helios 2 is the second generation of the European military optical reconnaissance system. A French–Belgian–Spanish–Greek partnership programme, the Helios 2 system, comprising two optical satellites and a user ground segment developed under Airbus Defence and Space prime contractorship, provides a number of key enhancements including higher resolution, infra-red imaging capability for night detection and shorter revisit cycles.
The new ground user segment entered service in 2003, and the first new-generation satellite, Helios 2A, was launched by Ariane 5 in December 2004, and Helios 2B, also by Ariane 5, in December 2009. The system also processes data from the still-operational Helios 1A satellite.
Helios 2 marks not only a considerable advance in Europe’s ability to obtain military space observation data, but also a new dimension for European defence. As a result of innovative bilateral international agreements (France–Germany, France–Italy), data access rights will be exchanged between the Helios II optical system and the German SAR-Lupe and Italian COSMO-SkyMed radar systems.