Astrium has won a $267m Maintenance en Condition Opérationnelle (MCO) contract extension from the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) to maintain and upgrade the ground-based user segment for the Helios 2 military reconnaissance satellite and its successor system.

Under the contract, the company will maintain and upgrade Helios 2 ground hardware and software located in the six nations that have access to Helios 2 satellite including Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and France.

The six year contract is effective this year through 2018, continuing a support service that had begun in 2005 and covers the period during which Helios 2B will be succeeded by two smaller spacecraft equipped with high-resolution optical images.

The contract will also cover the successors to the Helios programme, which consists of satellites that frame the optical space component (CSO) of the MUSIS multinational space-based imaging system and the associated ground component (SSU-CSO).

Ground segment maintenance is essential for a space observation system, which is at the heart of the system as it is important for programming, receiving, processing and distributing the images.

Astrium Satellites is the prime contractor for the two Helios 2 successor satellites.

Helios is a high-resolution military optical reconnaissance system that comprises two operational satellites, including Helios 2A and Helios 2B, offering partner countries with an autonomous situational awareness capability.

The space-based system is capable of acquiring images of any point on the globe at any time, and can even make repeated passes over the same target area without detection risk.

Helios 2 is a military optical reconnaissance programme developed by France in collaboration with four other European Union member states which include Belgium, Spain, Italy and Greece.

The images captured by Helios 2 will provide helpful information for high-level state authorities and forces deployed in operational theatre.