Arianespace's fourth Spaceport mission with Soyuz: the Pleiades 1B satellite is readied for fueling


The dual-use, very-high-resolution Pleiades 1B satellite payload for Arianespace's fourth Soyuz mission from French Guiana is ready for fueling, marking a new step in the preparation campaign for its nighttime launch on November 30.

Built by EADS' Astrium division for the French CNES space agency, Pleiades 1B has completed initial checkout in the Spaceport's S1B clean room facility, and has now been moved to the larger, multi-bay S5 payload processing center for the loading of its onboard propellant.

This satellite is designed to provide optical observation coverage with 50-centimeter resolution for the French and Spanish defense ministries, along with civil institutions and private users. After the launch by Soyuz, Pleiades 1B will join the twin Pleiades 1A satellite, which was lofted by an Arianespace Soyuz mission in December 2011 for operation from a quasi-polar heliosynchronous orbit.

Offering exceptional agility to maximize acquisitions over specific areas of interest, the Pleiades satellites can be "rush programmed" to overfly designated target zones, with an automated production system generating 20 km. x 20 km. orthorectified images in 30 minutes.

The system's capabilities were demonstrated by Pleiades 1A's imaging of areas along the U.S. eastern seaboard affected by Hurricane Sandy, underscoring the delivery of high-detail data that is essential for emergency response.

Arianespace's upcoming Soyuz flight with Pleiades 1B is designated VS04 in the company's mission numbering system for launcher family operations from the Spaceport. It will continue the medium-lift vehicle's mission pace, and follows the VS03 launch on October 12 with a pair of European Galileo navigation satellites; the VS02 flight on December 17, 2011, which carried Pleiades 1A, along with the Chilean SSOT civilian/defense imaging satellite and four French ELISA micro-satellites for defense electronic intelligence gathering: and the historic VS01 maiden liftoff of Soyuz from French Guiana on October 21, 2011 with two Galileo spacecraft.

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