Sunday, December 19, 2004

French Helios-II A, a new generation of military satellites

Helios-II A: EU Ariane rocket successfully placed into
orbit the first in a new generation of French military

Four so-called Essaim (Swarm) microsatellites, a
microsatellite called Parasol and Nanosat, a tiny
Spanish civilian research satellite were also
successfully separated from the rocket, which had
earlier taken off from the European Space Agency's
launchpad in French Guiana.

French defense minister Michele Alliot-Marie hailed the
successful launch, sending her congratulations to the
scientists from Paris, where she watched it live on

Helios II A is designed to have enhanced imaging in the
optical and infrared range and is designed to improve
military intelligence which will be used notably by
France, Belgium and Spain. It has a five year space

The microsatellites are designed by French military
scientists as a testbed for new technologies in
electromagnetic surveillance.

Parasol is a microsatellite designed by French civilian
scientists to study cloud formations and aerosols in the
upper atmosphere, while Nanosat is also designed to
monitor atmospheric changes.


  1. In French language:

    Le programme Hélios-II A, qui sera complété par le
    lancement du satellite Hélios-II B en décembre 2008,
    offrira aux armées une triple capacité :

    - des activités de renseignement, en permettant de
    constituer des dossiers de zones géographiques et de
    sites précis, tout en assurant un suivi de la
    prolifération, notamment nucléaire ;

    - la préparation de missions (dossiers d'objectifs,
    évaluation a priori des dommages collatéraux, évaluation
    des dommages après des frappes aériennes) ;

    - la réalisation de cartes pour des zones où elles sont
    insuffisantes (Afghanistan, Irak), et la fourniture de
    modèles numériques de terrain pour le guidage de
    missiles de croisière.

  2. "Missile shield failure"

    USA Defense Department: the flight test failed on Wednesday
    as the interceptor missile did not launch from the
    Marshall Islands due to an "unknown anomaly," though the
    target missile carrying a mock warhead was successfully
    fired from Kodiak, Alaska. The failure could deal a
    heavy blow to the Bush administration, which plans to
    activate a rudimentary ground-based missile defense
    shield by the end of this year. The Japanese government
    has said the failure has had no impact on the planned
    Japan-U.S. joint missile shield development. Tokyo said
    the two countries are working on a different type of
    system that is much smaller in scale. Japan and the
    United States agreed in 1998 to engage in joint missile
    shield research after North Korea fired a ballistic
    missile over Japan earlier that year. The two countries
    are poised to move on to the development and production
    stages as last week Japan announced a relaxation of its
    arms exports control to enable sales of missile defense
    components to the United States."
    Kyodo news

  3. A European rocket roared into space from a pad
    in South America on Saturday, placing into orbit a
    surveillance satellite billed as giving France's
    military new abilities to spy worldwide.

    The unmanned craft lifted off smoothly from a launch
    center in Kourou, French Guiana, at 1:36 p.m. - the
    third and last launch of an Ariane-5 rocket this year,
    Arianespace said.

    The satellite and six smaller scientific ones were
    placed into orbit about an hour after liftoff. It was
    the first time in 11 years that an Ariane rocket carried
    as many as seven satellites on a single launch.

    The Helios 2A military satellite, the rocket's main
    cargo, is to rotate in sun-synchronous orbit around 435
    miles above the Earth, Arianespace said.

    "The success of the Helios 2A launch is a great step
    forward for our space policy," Defense Minister Michele
    Alliot-Marie said at Ecole Militaire. "Mastering space
    is an imperative for tomorrow," she said, calling for
    greater space cooperation in Europe.

    The French military will "benefit from additional
    capabilities, more precise images and faster reaction
    speed," she said at a screening room at the Paris

    Among expected functions, the satellite is to monitor
    possible weapons proliferation, prepare and evaluate
    military operations and digitally map terrain for cruise
    missile guidance, the French Defense Ministry said in a
    statement Friday.

    Helios 2A, weighing 4.6 tons, is said to be able to spot
    objects as small as a textbook anywhere on Earth.
    Equipped with infrared sensors, it is expected to allow
    France's military to gather information at night from
    space for the first time.

    Among its predecessors, Helios 1B, which was launched in
    1999, suffered a power problem and the military let it
    disintegrate in the upper layers of the atmosphere two
    months ago. The first satellite in the series, Helios
    1A, went up in 1995 and is still operating.

    Also in the payload Saturday was the Parasol satellite,
    which is to help study the effect of cloud cover and
    aerosols on global warming and the greenhouse effect,
    believed to occur when carbon dioxide emissions trap the
    sun's heat in the atmosphere.

    Parasol is part of a French-American space observation
    mission involving six satellites that can study the
    world's atmosphere and help give a complete idea of how
    human activity affects the environment.

    The launch marks the 165th Ariane mission since the
    European launcher first began operating in 1979.
    Arianespace is the commercial arm of the 13-country
    European Space Agency.


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