EVRY, France --- Following approval by French defense procurement agency DGA, Jean-Yves Le Gall, Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace, and Yannick d'Escatha, President of French space agency CNES, signed the launch contract for the Helios IIB military satellite. The contract was signed during the European space, defense and security symposium jointly organized by the Western European Union and the European Interparliamentary Commission on Space.
Weighing about 4,200 kg at liftoff, Helios IIB will be launched by an Ariane 5 into Sun-synchronous polar orbit in the first half of 2009 from the Guiana Space Center, Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
Helios IIB is the second satellite of the second-generation observation system for defense and security, led by France in collaboration with Belgium, Spain and Italy. The program is managed by French defense procurement agency DGA (Délégation Générale pour l'Armement), part of the Ministry of Defense. The DGA assigned responsibility for the space segment to French space agency CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales).
Helios IIB, like the Helios IIA satellite launched by an Ariane 5 in December 2004, is built by Astrium as prime contractor. Astrium is leading a number of European subcontractors, including Alcatel Alenia Space, in charge of the high resolution instrument in particular. CNES also oversees the development and operation of the orbital positioning and control center at the Toulouse Space Center.
Helios IIB will be the 30th military payload to be launched by Arianespace. Arianespace covers all types of space missions carried out by European armed forces:
-- Optical observation, with Helios IA and IB (France, Italy, Spain), Helios IIA (France, Belgium, Spain and Italy).
-- Telecommunications, with the Syracuse I, II and III (France) and Sicral 1 (Italy) systems, and the various generations of Skynet satellites (UK), Hispasat 1A and 1B, Spainsat and X-Tar (Spain), Turksat 1A, 1B and 1C, Eurasiasat 1 (Turkey), and SatcomBW-2a and 2b (Germany).
CNES President Yannick d'Escatha expressed his satisfaction with the excellent in-orbit performance of the first new-generation observation satellite, Helios IIA, and emphasized the importance of Helios program continuity. "CNES is proud of being named by the DGA as project authority for the space segment. I am delighted with the progress Europe has made in space applications for security and defense, in support of our forces in the field, and also of how Arianespace and the Ariane 5 launcher have given Europe guaranteed access to space."
Arianespace CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall said, "The Ariane launcher is more than ever a fundamental part of the development of a common European defense and security policy, an area in which the space segment plays a pivotal role. I would like to express my thanks to CNES for its commitment to programs such as Helios, and to the DGA for once again placing its trust in our company."