Arianespace's Medium-Lift Launcher Orbits Pléiades 1B
(Source: Arianespace; issued Dec. 1, 2012)
KOUROU, French Guiana --- The maturity of Arianespace’s Soyuz launch system at French Guiana – and its confirmed role as a full-fledged member of the company’s launcher family – were demonstrated once again by tonight’s successful orbiting of the Pléiades 1B satellite from the Spaceport.

During a flight lasting 55 minutes, the Soyuz vehicle deployed its 970-kg. passenger into a targeted circular orbit of 695 km., inclined 98.2 deg., marking the medium-lift vehicle’s fourth mission from French Guiana since its introduction at this near-equatorial launch site in October 2011.

Pléiades 1B is a very-high-resolution dual-use satellite designed to provide optical imaging coverage for French and European defense ministries, institutions and civil users. It joins the twin Pléiades 1A spacecraft that was launched in December 2011 on Arianespace’s second Soyuz mission from the Spaceport.

Arianespace Chairman & CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall noted tonight’s launch was the ninth at French Guiana in 2012 for the company’s launcher family; following the lightweight Vega’s maiden flight in February; medium-lift missions with Soyuz in October and today; along with heavy-lift Ariane 5 flights in March, May, July, August, September and November.

Le Gall thanked all involved in these successes, including the teams who work at the Spaceport for such an “impressive” year – during which a total of 23 primary and secondary payloads were placed into orbit from French Guiana.

The Pléiades 1A and 1B satellites launched by Arianespace create an optical observation system with great agility, a quick-response ground segment and daily revisit capability – offering a new generation of “real-world” satellite Earth imagery at a resolution of 70 cm. Both Pléiades spacecraft are based on smaller, less expensive and more agile platforms than their predecessors – the highly-successful Spot satellite series that was lofted by Arianespace on its Ariane family launchers beginning in 1986.

France’s CNES space agency is prime contractor and architect for the Pléiades system, which is organized as part of a joint effort with Italy – whose Cosmo-Skymed satellite series delivers radar imaging coverage of the Earth.

Pléiades program participants are the space agencies of France, Austria, Belgium, Spain and Sweden; along with the defense ministries of France, Italy and Spain.

The Pléiades 1A and 1B spacecraft were built by EADS’ Astrium division.

Arianespace will wrap-up its 2012 launch activity at the Spaceport with a year-ending Ariane 5 mission on December 19 to orbit the Mexsat Bicentenario and Skynet 5D satellites. (ends)

Launch of Pleiades Satellite from Kourou: A New Phase In Satellite Intelligence, Says Jean-Yves Le Drian
(Source: French Ministry of Defence; issued Dec. 2, 2012)
(Issued in French only; unofficial translation by
Jean-Yves Le Drian, the Minister of Defence, yesterday continued his official visit to Guyana, and assisted to the launch of the second Pleiades earth observation satellite from the Kourou space center. The first Pleiades satellite was launched last year, and yesterday’s launch had been postponed for 24 hours due to a technical problem.

The Minister welcomed this collective success, noting that the French armed forces, as well as those of our partners, Italy and Spain, are eagerly awaiting the images that will be provided by the second Pleiades satellite. "Today we mark a new stage in the development of our satellite-based intelligence system,” he said.

“After Helios 1 gave France access to satellite imagery in 1995, and after the two Helios 2 military satellites in service today, the Pleiades satellites will allow us to make a quantum leap, by providing optical color images, more timely access to information, and shorter revisit times for the same area," the minister added.

Jean-Yves Le Drian recalled that "space contributes to the freedom of action of France and strengthens the effectiveness of its armed forces. The Guiana Space Centre is a key element of our strategic credibility and of the autonomy of our decision-making process. Recent conflicts and military operations have confirmed the major advantage that space assets provide, and that allow us to achieve, without delay, a key tactical superiority."

The minister also met with the military’s operation Titan, which ensures the protection of the Guiana Space Center. "Nothing would be possible without the level of security that you provide, without ever having been in default. If the Guiana Space Centre is the gateway to space, you are therefore its custodians."

The Minister continues his trip to Guyana today by meeting personnel of the local defense base, which supports nearly 2,770 people on the main garrisons at Cayenne and Kourou, with many forward operating bases and river checkpoints.

The Minister reminded the staff that their role was "to remember the unity of the nation. Overseas territories are diverse, which is an advantage, but the French Republic is one and indivisible, and there lies its strength."

Jean-Yves Le Drian completed his visit this afternoon by meeting the different actors of the French state’s actions in combating illegal fishing, which is the Navy’s second mission in Guiana, after monitoring and protecting waters off the Kourou center. Specifically, 78% of the hours Navy ships spend at sea are dedicated to this mission.

Jean-Yves Le Drian recalled that he will work to ensure that regional cooperation in this region, particularly with Brazil and Suriname, becomes a reality. "As for the fight against illegal mining, the fight against illegal fishing is one of the topics that we want to put on the agenda of the visit of the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff in France in a few days.”


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