France to Launch CSO-2 Military Observation Satellite Abroad Arianespace Soyuz Rocket

France is planning to launch its CSO-2 military observation satellite abroad Arianespace Soyuz rocket from Guiana Space Centre (Centre Spatial Guyanais, CSG) in Kourou, French Guiana.

The mission, designated as Flight VS25 in the Arianespace launcher family numbering system, was originally scheduled for 01:42 pm local time (16:42 UTC) on Dec. 28 but was later postponed for Dec. 29  due to unfavorable high-altitude wind conditions above the launch site.

The approval by Arianespace for this mission was given at the conclusion of the launch readiness review performed on Dec. 27, which confirmed the preparedness of Soyuz, along with the CSO-2 satellite, the Spaceport’s launch site infrastructure, and the network of tracking stations.

This will be the medium-lift Soyuz launcher’s 25th mission from South America since its introduction at the Spaceport in October 2011. It utilizes an ST-A version of the workhorse Soyuz vehicle, with CSO-2 to be deployed into Sun-synchronous orbit.

CSO-2 is the second of three satellites dedicated to Earth observation for defense and security in France’s Optical Space Component (CSO – Composante Spatiale Optique) program. They are being placed into polar orbits at different altitudes and will carry out two missions: reconnaissance for CSO-1 and CSO-3; and identification for CSO-2.

Flight VS25 is being performed by Arianespace for the French space agency CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) and the French defense procurement agency DGA (Direction générale de l’armement), on behalf of the French Ministry of Armed Forces. The predecessor CSO-1 spacecraft was orbited on an Arianespace Soyuz mission in December 2018 that also was performed from the Spaceport.

CNES is delegated as the contracting authority for the CSO program and its mission ground segment, as well as being the overall system co-architect. The space agency also is responsible for orbital positioning, in-orbit acceptance testing, and satellite operation. The DGA is contracting authority for the user ground segment’s construction and through-life maintenance, and will serve as the interface between the sensors deployed in space and the operators. Operating authority for the CSO system is assigned to the French Armed Forces headquarters.

Airbus Defence and Space France is prime contractor for the CSO-2 satellite, while Thales Alenia Space France supplies the optical imaging instrument.

The putting into orbit of the second satellite of the CSO constellation will mark a new stage in the process of renewing French defense space capabilities provided for by the 2019-2025 Military Planning Law.

The three new CSO satellites will be fully deployed by 2022 gradually succeeding the Helios 2 satellites currently in service. More agile and responsive than its predecessors, CSO makes it possible to collect a greater number of images of the same geographical area in a single flyover and delivers images of unprecedented quality to the French Armed Forces.

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