Arianespace has launched the Pleiades 1A, Elisa and SSOT satellites from the Guiana Space Center (CSG) in French Guiana for French space agency CNES, Astrium and the French and Chilean defense ministries.

The Pleiades 1A and SSOT satellites will gather images for civilian and defense purposes, while four Elisa micro-satellite demonstrators will be used for defence-related electronic intelligence gathering (ELINT).

French space agency Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) selected Arianespace to launch the two Earth observation satellites, while Pleiades 1B is planned to be in orbit within the next year.

The 1t-class satellite Pleiades 1 was built by the Astrium business unit of EADS and will provide military and civilian users with processed 50cm resolution imagery at ground coverage swath widths of 20km.

The Pleiades satellites will gather images at any point within 1,500km of their position in different acquisition modes and are capable of providing up to 450 images a day.

The constellation will be positioned in a sun-synchronous, quasi-polar orbit at an altitude of 700km.

The Pleiades satellites, based on their size, resolution, high degree of agility in orbit and ground transmission capacity, will offer a significant improvement in technology over previous generation satellites.

The Pleiades satellites will complement the current military space observation systems, and cater to the MoD’s requirement for space imaging.

The Sistema Satelital de Observación de la Tierra (SSOT) satellite, which is developed by Astrium, weighs about 117kg and is an Earth observation system satellite based on the AstroSat-100 Platform and the Silicium Carbide NAOMI camera.

The satellite was manufactured and tested at the Astrium site in Toulouse, France, for the Government of Chile and its main operator is the Air Force of Chile.

The satellite will offer dual civil and defence applications with a new-generation optical instrument.

The French defence procurement agency Direction Generale de l’Armement (DGA) and CNES had awarded a contract to Astrium Satellites and Thales Systemes Aeroportes to develop four Electronic Intelligence by Satellite (Elisa) with each weighing about 120kg, together with the user ground segment.

The Elisa demonstrators will be launched for the DGA to test the space-based mapping of radar transmitters across the planet and will used to determine the characteristics of the transmitters.

Arianespace has launched seven successful missions from the Guiana Space Center in 2011 including five Ariane 5 and two Soyuz launches.