CNES announced the successful launch of a military observation satellite from Kourou. The event reminds us of the exponential presence, above our heads, of surveillance devices with a more precise definition every day.
“On December 29, 2020, the Soyuz launcher successfully completed its mission from the Guyanese Space Center, putting the French military observation satellite CSO-2 into orbit,” the National Center for Space Studies said the same day ( Cnes). The firing had been postponed by one day due to unfavorable altitude winds.
“Earth observation for military use”
As AFP reports, the CSO-2 satellite, weighing 3,562 kilograms at takeoff, must be placed in a low orbit at an altitude of 480 kilometers, from which it can identify, for example, a weapon. lightweight.
If the rocket which propelled it is of Russian manufacture, the design and the realization of the satellite in question were supported by Airbus Defense and Space France, while Thales alenia space France provided the optical instrument, can we read on the Cnes website.
Successfully carried out at 1:42 p.m. Kourou time (5:42 p.m. Paris time), operation “VS25 / CSO-2” corresponds to the second launch of a joint “Earth observation for military use” mission. by the Cnes and the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA).
The French space agency thus details the challenges of the mission as a whole: “The CSO (Optical Space Component) satellites of the MUSIS (Multinational space-based imaging system) program are military observation satellites dedicated to French Defense and to his partners. Under the contracting authority of Cnes by delegation from the DGA, they must succeed the Hélios 2 system [une famille de satellites de reconnaissance français mis en orbite entre 1995 et 2009] and contribute to the capacity building of forces in the field of space intelligence, support and conduct of operations in theaters of engagement. ”
CSO-1, launched in December 2018, is positioned at an altitude of 800 kilometers, just like CSO-3, whose launch is scheduled for the end of 2021. The latter two are assigned to so-called “reconnaissance” missions , while CSO-2, positioned lower, will have an “identification” mission.
What about satellite surveillance?
“Observations in the optical field [comme c’est le cas de la mission française susmentionnée], more widespread, remain limited by meteorological conditions; they can be bypassed or supplemented by radar observations [autres bandes de fréquence] which are completely free from cloud cover, ”recently testified an aerospace engineer with RT France.
In fact, French ambitions in terms of military observation are reminiscent of the exponential presence, above our heads, of surveillance satellites with increasingly precise definitions.
“The new Israeli spy satellite sends back its first photos …”, headline for example on this subject The Times of Israel, July 15, 2020. “A surveillance satellite that can see even in your bathroom”, explained France Culture a week before Christmas, in reference to the work in this area, presented on December 16 by the Californian company Capella space . “We are incredibly proud to have officially achieved the highest resolution [d’image satellitaire] of the world ! Today, we are unveiling our “Spot” imagery at 50 cm x 50 cm ”, the American firm had indeed boasted. on Twitter, in the preamble of a thread of publications on his recent accomplishments concerning observation by “synthetic aperture radar”. Capella space had thus published a cliche showing a detailed view of China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
2 / If you’ve seen our Stripmap images on social media, get ready for even higher levels of detail and clarity in our images. Take China’s Jiuquan #Satellite Launch Center, where you can zoom in to see crisp SAR images of the rockets on the pads with unprecedented sharpness. pic.twitter.com/ffen7TJfhq
– Capella Space (@capellaspace) December 16, 2020
Tensions at altitude
The French mission mentioned at the beginning of the article supports, point by point, the guidelines of the French Space Command (CDE), a joint service which officially came into being on September 8, 2019. Depending on the Head of State- Major of the Air Force, this service could be composed, according to the French government, of “500 people by 2025”. As a reminder, the CDE was born successively in an orbital incident after which the French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, accused Russia of having attempted to capture communications from a Franco-Italian military satellite.
Simultaneously with the major scientific cooperation that space activity continues to generate between the various players in the sector, it is experiencing militarization inseparable from its development. The fact is that space comes from Defense, which remains a major customer in this area.
On December 20, 2019, the United States, the world’s leading investors – handily – in the space sector, for their part gave birth to a “Space force” under the acronym USSF, which is to date, the sixth branch of the country’s armed forces, with which Washington intends to let the world know its superiority in the sector, thus leading the main space players to react accordingly. “China is developing lasers capable of blinding American spy satellites”, the magazine read on this subject. Capital in October 2019.
Proof of tensions directly linked to each other’s space activity, in April 2020 the US administration fulminated against Tehran, in reaction to its first launch of a military satellite: “Iran will have to be held to account. “, Thundered Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State of the United States. Three months later, Washington also accused Moscow of having tested a weapon to destroy satellites. Formal denial from the Russian authorities who then explained that they had carried out tests on an inspector satellite capable of diagnosing the state of other satellites.
“All the countries that can afford it feel that they cannot be left behind in space. Having access to space becomes a question of sovereignty, so as not to vassalize itself to other “flagship” nations, ”commented the space industry professional recently contacted by RT France.