Space: European Reconnaissance Satellite Network


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March 29, 2006: The first of the five German SAR Lupe radar reconnaissance satellites was launched in February 2006. These will form the core of a European military satellite network. The following four satellites will be launched every six months for a full operational capability in 2008. In that year the German system will be fully integrated with the French Helios II optical satellites to form the core of a European military satellite network. Germany and France hope that their cooperation in the satellite based reconnaissance will attract in the long run other European nations to participate.

The SAR Lupe uses synthetic aperture radar. This technology can take high resolution pictures using radar, and is unaffected by night or climate conditions (clouds, sandstorms.) The satellites can operate in strip map mode for wide area coverage and in the spot light mode for a very limited reconnaissance area with a maximum resolution of below one meter. Each satellite weighs around 1,700 pounds, the dimensions are 13x10x6 feet and the expected life time is ten years. The satellites will operate in three different polar orbits in an approximate altitude of 500 kilometers.

The French Helios II system consists of two optical satellites and started to replace the predecessor Helios I with the first launch in December 2004. The Helios II satellites have an improved resolution of approximately one meter and are additionally equipped with infrared sensors for night surveillance. - Joachim Hofbauer


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