Launch Updates - Analytical Graphics, Inc.

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New Launch: 2011 December 17, 0203 UTC
Site: Europe's Spaceport, Kourou, French Guiana
Launcher: Soyuz 2
International Designator(s): 2011-076A, 2011-076B, 2011-076C, 2011-076D, 2011-076E, 2011-076F
SSC Name Owner
38007 ELISA W23 FR
38008 ELISA E12 FR
38009 ELISA E24 FR
38010 ELISA W11 FR

"A Russian Soyuz rocket fired six satellites into space Friday, launching missions to serve defense agencies in Europe and Chile with high-resolution imagery and electronic intelligence.

"The passengers included France's Pleiades 1 imaging platform, four French ELISA electronic intelligence satellites and the SSOT Earth observation satellite for Chile.

"Liftoff of the 151-foot[46.0-m]-tall Soyuz launcher was at 0203:48 GMT (9:03:48 p.m. EST) from the Guiana Space Center on the northeast coast of South America. Lighting up the night sky with brilliant orange flame, the kerosene-fueled rocket dodged scattered clouds and flew north away from the French Guiana spaceport.

"The rocket's core stages finished their job in less than 9 minutes, then a Fregat space tug guided the Pleiades and ELISA payloads to an orbit nearly 435 miles [700 km] above Earth.

'The 2,138-pound [970-kg] Pleiades 1 satellite and four 265-pound [120-kg] ELISA spacecraft were deployed from the Fregat upper stage about one hour after launch.

"Two more brief firings of the Fregat main engine adjusted its altitude to 379 miles [610 km] for the release of SSOT, a French-built imaging satellite for Chile's government.

"Separation of SSOT was confirmed at about 0530 GMT (12:30 a.m. EST), and officials heralded the mission as a success.

"It was the second launch of a Soyuz booster from French Guiana using a new US$800 million facility situated eight miles northwest of the spaceport's existing Ariane rocket launch zone."

"Led by CNES, the French space agency, Pleiades 1 will collect high-resolution optical imagery for military and civilian users. CNES reported the Pleiades 1 satellite was acquired by ground stations and was operating normally soon after launch."

"The Pleiades system is also partially funded by Belgium, Sweden, Spain and Austria. It will complement France's Helios government spy satellites and the Spot series of commercial imaging craft.

"Spain and Italy will receive priority data for military needs under separate agreements with the French defense ministry. Civil users will receive about 95 percent of the capacity from the Pleiades system through Astrium Services, the company responsible for commercial imagery dissemination, but time-sensitive military requests will be expedited."

"Italy and France share data from radar and optical observation satellites for defense purposes. The ORFEO agreement calls for imagery from Italy's COSMO-SkyMed radar satellite system and France's Pleiades optical program to be distributed to both nations.

"Designed for a five-year mission, the agile Pleiades satellites each carry a Korsch telescope built by Thales Alenia Space with a primary mirror 2.1 feet [0.6 m] in diameter. Its CCD detectors are 40 times more sensitive to light than those in standard consumer digital cameras, according to CNES.

"Officials say Pleiades 1 will be in its final orbit about 10 days after launch. When operational, it will collect up to 450 images each day, including tri-stereo imagery and mosaics."

"The ELISA satellite quartet will map radar emissions worldwide, characterizing and cataloging their sources for use in electronic warfare."

"The satellites will drift to their correct position in orbit over the next three months before testing begins.

"The ELISA program is a partnership between CNES, DGA, the French Joint Space Command and the military's intelligence directorate.

"French Gen. Laurent Collet-Billon, director of DGA, said engineers will evaluate the technical performance of the ELISA satellites and incorporate the experience into the design of an operational signals intelligence satellite system to be launched by 2020."

"Chile's SSOT satellite, based on the French Myriade platform, will collect 4.8-foot resolution imagery for security, mapping, urban planning, and agriculture applications."

[Note: This launch notification was delayed pending identification by USSTRATCOM.]

Source: Spaceflight Now, "Six defense satellites launched by Soyuz rocket"

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