An Arianespace Soyuz rocket successfully launched a new reconnaissance satellite into orbit for France Wednesday (Dec. 19), the first of a new constellation of spy satellites for the French military.
Arianespace launched the Russian-built Soyuz rocket from the South American spaceport of Guiana Space Centre to deliver the CSO-1 Earth-observation satellite into orbit for France's Ministry of Defense, the French space agency (CNES) and the country's defense procurement agency (DGA). Liftoff occurred at 11:37 a.m. EST (1637 GMT) after it was delayed by one day due to bad weather.
"The orbiting of CSO-1 shows once again how CNES is working effectively with the Ministry of Armed Forces to develop and operate its space systems," CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall said in a statement. [Declassified US Spy Satellites in Photos]
The CSO-1 satellite (its name is short for Composante Spatiale Optique, French for "Optical Space Component") is the first of a three-spacecraft constellation of military observation satellites for France's ministry of defense. The satellite weighs 7,861 pounds (3,566 kilograms) and will be used for reconnaissance during its 10-year mission lifetime, according to an Arianespace description. Wednesday's Soyuz launch placed CSO-1 in an initial sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 497 miles (800 kilometers) above Earth.
"Once at its final orbital location, CSO-1 will be used to take 3D pictures and to acquire very-high-resolution images in the visible and infrared bandwidths, day or night and in fair weather, and using a variety of imaging modes to meet as many operational requirements as possible," Arianespace representatives said in a statement.
A second CSO satellite will also be used for reconnaissance, while the third will serve a target identification role, the European launch provider said. Airbus Defense and Space built the CSO-1 satellite for the French military.
Wednesday's launch marked the 11th mission of 2018 for Arianespace and its 20th Soyuz launch overall under an agreement with Russia's space agency Roscosmos. It was also the second space mission of the day, following the successful launch of the GSAT-7A communications satellite by the Indian Space Research Organisation.
A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket is also scheduled to launch Wednesday evening to deliver a U.S. spy satellite into orbit from California's Vandenberg Air Force Station. And top it all off, a Roscosmos Soyuz spacecraft is scheduled to return three crewmembers home from the International Space Station overnight.