Flight VS25: Arianespace orbits the CSO-2 military observation satellite for France


For its 10th and final launch of the year, Arianespace used a Soyuz rocket to orbit the CSO-2 defense and security observation satellite for the French CNES space agency (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) and DGA defense procurement agency (Direction générale de l’armement), on behalf of the French armed forces.


With this launch, Arianespace has once again demonstrated its ability to ensure independent access to space for France and Europe.


The latest success from the Guiana Space Center confirms the flexibility of Soyuz, occurring just 10 days after the medium-lift vehicle’s first commercial launch operated by Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate from Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome.


On Tuesday, December 29, 2020 at 1:42 p.m. local time, Arianespace successfully launched an Earth observation satellite for defense and security purposes from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana (South America), using a medium-lift Soyuz launcher.

This payload, CSO-2, is the second dedicated military observation satellite in France’s Optical Space Component (CSO – Composante Spatiale Optique), a program conducted by CNES and DGA for operation by the French Armed Forces and the country’s Space Command.


“I want to thank the Arianespace teams for their unwavering commitment throughout this exceptional year, as well as CNES and the French Ministry of the Armed Forces for their renewed confidence on the occasion of this second launch of a satellite in the Optical Space Component. Many thanks to all the employees of the Space Center and to CNES, also, for mobilizing with us for this last mission of the year, which closes the global launches 2020. And congratulations to our Russian partners and our legendary Soyuz rocket for this third success in less than a month,” declared Stéphane Israël, the Arianespace Chief Executive Officer, several minutes after the launch. “We’re all the more proud of this success knowing that the Optical Space Component satellites will provide invaluable support in accomplishing the missions of women and men who are engaged daily in theaters of operations.”


The Optical Space Component comprises three identical satellites placed in polar orbits at different altitudes, with two assigned missions: reconnaissance for CSO-1 and CSO-3; identification for CSO-2. As a successor to the Helios 1 and 2 systems, the CSO system meets France’s operational requirements for global intelligence and strategic surveillance, providing up-to-date information about the geographic environment and in the support of operations. The CSO program is developed in a national framework within the program MUSIS (Multinational Space-based Imaging System).


The CSO-2 satellite will acquire very-high-resolution images in the visible and infrared wavelengths – day or night and in fair weather – using a variety of imaging modes to meet a broad range of operational needs.


CSO-2 is the 45th satellite launched by Arianespace for CNES and DGA. The CSO 1 spacecraft also was orbited by a Soyuz from the Guiana Space Center, with its launch performed on December 19, 2018.


Arianespace’s order book backlog now includes 10 more missions for French institutions (CNES/DGA): CSO-3; Syracuse 4A and 4B; three satellites for the CERES system; and four satellites for the CO3D system (in partnership with Airbus Defence and Space).


Airbus Defence and Space France built the CSO-2 satellite as prime contractor, with Thales Alenia Space France supplying the optical instrument. CSO-2 was the 130th satellite built by Airbus Defence and Space to be launched by Arianespace.


Including today’s mission, Arianespace has now launched 75 defense and security satellites: 53 for France and its European partners, along with 22 for export. These spacecraft were designed for applications in secure telecommunications, as well as for Earth observation.


Today’s launch, the 25th with Soyuz mission since its introduction at the Guiana Space Center in 2011, was Arianespace’s 10th and final launch of 2020. The year’s five Soyuz flights were conducted from three different spaceports: the Guiana Space Center; Baikonur Cosmodrome; and Vostochny Cosmodrome – providing exceptional flexibility for Arianespace’s launch services offering.

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