Arianespace Launches FalconEye Earth Observation Satellite for UAE Armed Forces

Arianespace has successfully launched FalconEye high-performance Earth observation satellite for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Armed Forces.

The Soyuz rocket carrying the optical observation satellite lifted off from the Guiana Space Center (CSG), Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, at 10:33 p.m. (local time) on Tuesday, December 1.

FalconEye is a very-high-performance optical Earth observation satellite developed in a consortium led by Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space for the UAE Armed Forces (UAEAF). The satellite weighed 1190 kg at launch and will be raised to a helio-synchronous orbit of 611 km.

“The success of this launch is the culmination of excellent teamwork: with our Russian partners for the Soyuz launcher; with satellite manufacturers Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space, as well as with their client, the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, for Falcon Eye; along with the French CNES space agency and the French DGA armaments procurement and technology agency. Therefore, Arianespace is pleased to have served the space ambitions of the United Arab Emirates,” declared Stéphane Israël, Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace.

Arianespace Soyuz rocket lifts off with UAE Armed Forces’ FalconEye optical earth observation satellite from the Guiana Space Center (CSG), Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, at 10:33 p.m. (local time) on Dec. 1, 2020. Photo Credit: Arianespace.

“The launch of the FalconEye satellite is a major event for the United Arab Emirates and we are proud, together with Airbus to celebrate this success,” said Hervé Derrey, CEO of Thales Alenia Space. “A program such as FalconEye is very ambitious, and aims to deliver exceptional performance. Thales Alenia Space rose to the challenge of this program with determination, reflecting the culmination and consolidation of more than 30 years of experience in the construction of observation satellites with very-high-resolution optical instruments.”

“FalconEye will offer top quality Earth observation, providing our customer with the best of what space imagery can offer. The high-performance optical satellite system represents an important step in the cooperation between the United Arab Emirates and France,” said Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Space Systems at Airbus. “Thanks to the trust of our Emirati customer and the support of the French government, we have been able to deliver a great team effort between Airbus and Thales Alenia Space.”

The FalconEye satellite offers very-high-resolution optical observation capabilities, coupled with a high-performance ground segment to receive and process images. This was the 23rd satellite launched by Arianespace that was produced jointly by Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space. Airbus Defence and Space, prime contractor for FalconEye, was in charge of satellite design, integration and testing, as well as supplying the platform. Thales Alenia Space, as co-prime, supplied the high-performance payload, which features a very-high-resolution optical instrument and the image transmission subsystem.

Artist’s rendering of UAE Armed Forces’ FalconEye earth observation satellite. Photo via Airbus.

This mission marks Arianespace’s eighth launch in 2020 and the company’s 31st launch for a customer from the Middle East. This is also the 24th launch of Soyuz launcher from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana.

FalconEye was deployed by Arianespace’s third Soyuz flight in 2020; the two previous missions were carried out in February and March from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Two more Soyuz launches are planned before year-end: Flight ST29 from the new Russian launch site in Vostochny for OneWeb; and Flight VS25 from the CSG. With more than 1,900 launches to its credit overall since entering service in 1963, the Soyuz launcher is the most flexible and most utilized in its class. As the medium-lift launcher in Arianespace’s family of launch vehicles, Soyuz perfectly complements the European launch service operator’s commercial offer, particularly in serving low and medium orbits for the benefit of Earth observation satellites and constellations.

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