PARIS - Thethird of five planned German high-resolution SAR-Lupe radar reconnaissance satelliteswas successfully launched Nov. 1 by a Russian Cosmos-3M rocket and has begunwhat is expected to be four weeks of testing before it is transferred to theGerman armed forces, SAR-Lupe prime contractor OHB-System AG said.
The 1,587-pound(720-kilogram) satellite, capable of detecting ground objects of lessthan three feet (one meter) in diameter, will join its two identicalpredecessors in a near-polar, 310-mile (500-kilometer) orbit. The two remainingSAR-Lupe spacecraft are scheduled to launch at four- or five-month intervals,with the full five-satellite network to be operational by late 2008.
Bremen,Germany-based OHB-System supplied the satellites and the launchers under acontract with the German armed forces that calls for a certain level ofSAR-Lupe capacity to be available without interruption for 10 years.
The firsttwo SAR-Lupe spacecraft were launched in December 2006 and July2007. German defense officials have said both are performing tospecifications.
By late 2009,SAR-Lupe is expected to be available to French defense forces as part of abilateral exchange that will give the German military access to France'sHelios-2 high-resolution optical reconnaissance satellites.
TheCosmos-3M rocket launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia andplaced the SAR-Lupe satellite into orbit about 30 minutes after liftoff. AFrench government-owned ground station at Kerguelen Island in the Indian Oceanpicked up the first signals.
The GermanAerospace Center, DLR, is responsible for controlling the satellite from DLR'sOberpfaffenhofen facility during the four-week test period.
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Charles Q. Choi is a contributing writer for Space.com and Live Science. He covers all things human origins and astronomy as well as physics, animals and general science topics. Charles has a Master of Arts degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, School of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Florida. Charles has visited every continent on Earth, drinking rancid yak butter tea in Lhasa, snorkeling with sea lions in the Galapagos and even climbing an iceberg in Antarctica. Visit him at http://www.sciwriter.us