The first satellite of the Pléiades Neo constellation has been successfully launched. Once completed, the constellation, made of four identical satellites, will be used for various applications such as mapping, urban planning and defence. Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) is supporting the Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP), and routine on-orbit Telemetry, Tracking and Command (TT&C) and data reception – from its Kinuvik and Punta Arenas ground stations.
Funded, manufactured, owned and operated by Airbus, the Pléiades Neo constellation is a breakthrough in Earth observation – reshaping the domain of optical imagery with native 30cm resolution, high geolocation accuracy and twice-a-day re-visit. The satellite launched today is the first of four, with the next to be launched later this year, followed by two additional ones in 2022. The Pléiades Neo satellites will join the existing Airbus fleet of high resolution optical and radar Earth observation satellites.
“The launch of this first satellite will pave the way to new services and great opportunities for our customers, thanks to Pléiades Neo’s high accuracy and increased reactivity. Our cooperation with SSC helps to give us confidence in the success of these first, very important steps in operating the satellite. We are now looking forward to SSC’s support for satellite commissioning and commercial operations”, says Eric Perez, Head of Geospatial Imagery and Services at Airbus Defence and Space.
Since early 2019, SSC has supported preparations for the Pléiades Neo programme, achieving the first milestone with today’s successful launch. Ground support comes from SSC’s dual polar ground stations in Sweden and Canada – called the “Kinuvik Solution” – where both stations are operated as one for optimized support. The partnership also includes an option to provide potentially higher data volumes at a later stage, using the southern hemisphere station of Punta Arenas, Chile.
The ground station network solution was designed by SSC together with Airbus to add critical network diversity to Airbus’ Receiving Stations and SpaceDataHighway relay satellite system.
“LEOP is one of the most critical phases of the satellite’s lifecycle, and support is vital in order to assure a successful mission, by maintaining frequent contact while the satellite successfully reaches its orbit and nominal configuration. Now we look forward to providing ground support during commissioning and then commercial operations. And even if a lot of the operations are automated nowadays, the human factor is crucial for tailoring a solution that meets the customer's requirements“, says Miranda Pirrie, Head of SSC Satellite Management Services.
“The partnership with Airbus is one of SSC’s longest and most valued. We always enjoy working alongside our colleagues at Airbus, they keep challenging us and push the boundaries to get the best out of each one of us. The long-term contract for SSC support to the Pléiades Neo programme was signed in early 2019, and we are proud to support this groundbreaking and important mission”, says Stefan Pessirilo, SSC Business Development Director.
Today’s Pléiades Neo launch was SSC’s fifth LEOP support since the beginning of the year, with many more to come, including the second Pléiades Neo satellite in mid-year. Over the years, SSC has conducted hundreds of LEOP supports, with an average of 18 -20 performed annually.