NEWTOWN, Conn. --- As delays continued with the European-wide MUSIS program, France decided to proceed with the development of a new satellite reconnaissance system alone. Paris was fearful that further delays would create a gap between the retirement of older Helios satellites and the introduction of new ones.
In June 2009, France awarded a contract to Astrium Satellites (now Airbus Defence and Space) to begin development of the Optical Space Component (CSO), a Helios replacement. This development contract was followed by a production contract in December 2010. Under the EUR795 million ($1.04 billion at the time of signing) contract, Airbus will manufacture two Helios 2 replacements, while Thales Alenia Space France will build the instrument payloads.
While the MUSIS program never came to fruition, European nations will continue to cooperate on satellite reconnaissance systems. In February 2015, Germany announced it would finance the majority of a third satellite in return for access to the entire network. With that agreement, three CSO satellites are now expected to be built. Similar agreements will likely be signed with other European countries.
Production of the CSO satellites is now underway, and the first is expected to be launched later in 2018. The new satellites will continue coverage and improve France's reconnaissance capabilities. The second satellite will launch in 2021, with the third following around 2024.