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Helios 2B successfully launched

Arianespace wrapped up another successful year of operations orbiting the French Helios 2B military observation satellite, which was lofted on the seventh Ariane 5 launch in mid Dec 2009.

Thales Alenia Space is the prime contractor for principal systems on European defence and security satellites

Cannes, December 18, 2009 – The Helios 2B military observation satellite, built for the French Ministry of Defence by EADS Astrium as prime contractor and featuring a very-high-resolution optical imaging instrument produced by Thales Alenia Space, was successfully launched today by Arianespace, using an Ariane 5 rocket, from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana.

The Helios 2 programme, based on two satellites in sun-synchronous orbit, is a second-generation military observation system developed by France in conjunction with Belgium, Spain, Greece and Italy. The five countries participating in this programme chose French defence procurement agency DGA (Direction Générale de l’Armement) as the general contracting authority for the Helios 2 system.

Launched in 1993, the programme calls on the space optics expertise of Thales Alenia Space, which supplied the high-resolution imaging instruments for the Helios 1A, Helios 1B, Helios 2A and Helios 2B satellites. The system provides a real “eagle eye” in space for all defence needs. The new-generation high-resolution imaging instrument for the Helios 2 satellites, designated HRZ for “High Resolution Zoom”, is the successor to the imaging assembly on the Helios 1 satellites. It weighs 1,124 kg, consumes 418 W of power in standby mode and up to 893 W in use.It is operated by 290 commands and delivers 250 telemetry readings.

The HRZ offers a significant performance improvement compared to its predecessor, especially in terms of spatial resolution and spectrum width. In particular the ground footprint has been considerably improved, and the incorporation of an infrared channel makes this new satellite a prime reconnaissance tool for European defence. It will offer complementary night detection capabilities and will help speed up access to information.

“Thales Alenia Space has produced all the high-resolution instruments for Helios satellites since 1993,” said Reynald Seznec, President and CEO of Thales Alenia Space. “By drawing on our expertise in optical engineering and industrial facilities that are unrivaled in Europe, we have developed instruments that are increasingly sophisticated and also provide greater and greater precision in terms of both spatial and spectral resolution. Thales Alenia Space has the capabilities needed to remain the trusted partner of the French Ministry of Defence in the coming years, for both observation and communications applications.”

Thales Alenia Space offers unrivaled expertise to meet evolving defence and security requirements, as reflected in the company’s selection on new French programmes. For example, Thales Alenia Space was chosen to develop the optical instrument for CSO, successor to the Helios 2 programme and actively prepares the operational CERES spaceborne intelligence programme. At the same time, Thales Alenia Space is a pivotal player in current analyses on the possibility of outsourcing responsibility for French military space communications systems, built and already operated by the company. The same approach will probably be applied to the operational early warning system that France plans to develop, as well as to the Italian second-generation observation system and the European intelligence system, Musis.

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About Thales Alenia Space

The European leader in satellite systems and a major player in orbital infrastructures, Thales Alenia Space is a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Finmeccanica (33%). Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio embody the two groups’ “Space Alliance”. Thales Alenia Space sets the global standard in solutions for space telecommunications, radar and optical Earth observation, defence and security, navigation and science. With consolidated revenues of 2 billion euros in 2008, Thales Alenia Space has 7,200 employees at 11 industrial sites in France, Italy, Spain and Belgium.

Helios 2B weighed approximately 4,200 kg. at liftoff, and is the second platform in a new-generation military spaceborne observation system created by France in conjunction with Belgium, Spain, Italy and Greece. The satellite was produced by EADS Astrium as prime contractor, and the spacecraft’s European industrial team included Thales Alenia Space, which supplied the reconnaissance satellite’s high resolution imaging instrument.