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HELIOS, the French military reconnaissance satellite

Prevention, dissuasion, peace keeping ... the Iran-Iraq wars or the Afghan conflict are examples of situations that have shown the need for French defence to strengthen its military reconnaissance capacities. The use of a spatial observation system allows France to observe independently and anywhere, without the risk of violating the air space of the countries observed.

The HELIOS system has thus become a vital component of reconnaissance and military operations. Complementing terrestrial systems, the satellites provide permanent worldwide coverage. Imaging is at the heart of the terrestrial system but is also used by air bases and the French navy.

HELIOS programme
Initiator Délégation générale pour l'armement (DGA, a state organization in charge of arms programs)
Status in operation
Participants HELIOS I: France (DGA, CNES), Italy, Spain
HELIOS II: France (DGA, CNES), Belgium, Spain
Objectives To provide France with a high resolution military spatial observation system
Launch date Helios IA: 7 July 1995 (Ariane 4)
Helios IB: 3 December 1999 (Ariane 4)
Helios IIA: December 2004 (Ariane 5G)

Launching began at the end of 2004, and the HELIOS II system is strengthening and improving existing capacity in terms of resolution, access time to information and imaging capacity. HELIOS II also allows missions to be targeted, guided and prepared and combat damage to be verified.

The HELIOS programme benefits from the research into synergies with the SPOT satellites. With the skills and experience acquired in the civil domain, the CNES is a privileged partner of French Defence and the DGA, the programme director. In this respect, the CNES directs the space component and the work on the architecture of the whole of the HELIOS system.




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