The Defense Ministry Launches Production of the First European Signals Intelligence Satellite
(Source: French Defence Procurement Agency, DGA; issued Mar 12, 2015)
(Issued in French only; unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)
The Directorate-General of Armaments (DGA) has awarded the first phase of the contract for the implementation of the CERES system (CapacitE RoEm Spatiale, space signals intelligence capability) to Airbus Defence and Space and its co-contractor, Thales.

This space-based signal-gathering intelligence system will allow France to collect, by 2020, without legal constraints tied to overflights, and in all weathers, electro-magnetic signals intelligence (SIGINT) from areas that are inaccessible to surface-based sensors.

The budget to manufacture and launch the CERES satellites in orbit is of the order of €450 million.

This new program phase will launch the production of the three satellites and of the user ground segment. The development of CERES benefits from the technological advances made over the past decade with the ELISA and SWARM technology demonstrators.

With the CERES satellites, France confirms its position among the few countries controlling the collection of SIGINT intelligence from space, and the European leader in this field.

Project management of the CERES program is provided by the DGA. CNES, the French National Space Center, acts as the project manager for the acquisition of the ground control segment and of launch services.

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Airbus Defence and Space to Build CERES Signals Intelligence Satellites for French Defence
(Source: Airbus Defence and Space; issued Mar 12, 2015)
Airbus Defence and Space has been selected by the French defence procurement agency DGA to construct three CERES signals intelligence (SIGINT) satellites, as well as to be the joint prime contractor together with Thales for the overall system.

CERES is the first operational interception system for the French defence agency and draws on the experience acquired from the ESSAIM and ELISA demonstrators.

Airbus Defence and Space, the world’s second largest space company, has been selected by the DGA (Direction générale de l’armement) to build the three CERES satellites, which will provide France with its first operational SIGINT capability.

“The fact that the DGA has entrusted Airbus Defence and Space with the construction of the CERES satellites demonstrates the quality of our expertise and technology, acquired through our successful development of the ESSAIM and ELISA demonstrators,” said François Auque, Head of Space Systems. “Signals intelligence is flagged as a top priority in the French Defence and National Security white paper.

Airbus Defence and Space, which started working with Thales through CERES, is proud to provide France with its industrial and technological expertise, thus confirming its position as the prime contractor for all French space-based intelligence systems.”

The CERES (Capacité de Renseignement Electromagnétique Spatiale or Space Signal Intelligence Capacity) system comprises three closely positioned satellites that are designed to detect and locate ground signals, along with ground control and user ground segments. CERES is due to enter service in 2020.

Airbus Defence and Space has been entrusted with the space segment comprising the three satellites, while Thales is responsible for the payload and the user ground segment. The two manufacturers are the joint prime contractors for the entire system. In addition, Thales Alenia Space acts as a subcontractor to Airbus Defence and Space in supplying the platform.
Intelligence is one of four priorities identified by the white paper. The 2014-2019 Military Planning Law has translated this priority into programmes and funding, which include signals intelligence and one of its operational uses, the CERES programme.

This satellite system will give France a capability that few countries possess. In designing and building CERES, Airbus Defence and Space and Thales will draw on the experience they acquired jointly from the ESSAIM and ELISA demonstrators.


Airbus Defence and Space is a division of Airbus Group formed by combining the business activities of Cassidian, Astrium and Airbus Military. The new division is Europe’s number one defence and space enterprise, the second largest space business worldwide and among the top ten global defence enterprises. It employs more than 38,000 employees generating revenues of approximately €13 billion per year.

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Thales to Develop France's CERES Space-Borne Military Intelligence System
(Source: Thales; issued March 12, 2015)
The French defence procurement agency (DGA) has selected Thales and Airbus Defence and Space as co-prime contractors for the design and construction of France's future military spaced-based signals intelligence (SIGINT) system, which is due to enter service by 2020.

In addition to its role as overall system co-prime contractor, Thales has responsibility for the mission payload on board the satellites and for the user ground segment in charge of programming the satellites and the data processing.

CERES (Capacité de Renseignement Electromagnétique d’origine Spatiale) will provide the French armed forces with an operational space-based SIGINT capability. Three closely positioned satellites will detect and locate radiocommunications and radars. The system also includes a ground control segment, to be provided by the French space agency CNES, and the user ground segment.

Airbus Defence and Space will have responsibility for the space segment, comprising the three satellites that will integrate the SIGINT payloads. Thales Alenia Space will supply the platform under subcontract to Airbus Defence and Space.

Intelligence is one of four priorities identified by the French defence white paper, and funding was earmarked for SIGINT, including the CERES programme, under the 2014-2019 defence spending plan.

"This satellite system will be one of the most sophisticated in the world, giving France a capability that few nations possess. To design and build CERES, we will be drawing on the experience and expertise acquired on the ESSAIM and ELISA demonstrators," said Pierre Eric Pommellet, Thales Executive Vice-President, Defence Mission Systems.

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