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Soyuz December 12, 2018

Arianespace to orbit the CSO-1 military observation satellite for CNES and DGA

For its 11th and final launch of the year – and the third in 2018 with the Soyuz medium launcher – Arianespace will send the CSO-1 Earth observation satellite, intended for defense and security applications, into Sun-synchronous orbit for the French CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) space agency and the DGA (Direction générale de l’armement) defense procurement agency on behalf of the French Ministry of Defense.

This also will be the 20th mission carried out by Soyuz since it began operating at the Guiana Space Center (CSG) in October 2011.

With this latest launch at the service of France’s defense requirements, as well as for the capacity needs of several partner countries, Arianespace once again guarantees French and European autonomous access to space – a strategic priority, and a key element for sovereignty.

Flight VS20 will be performed from the Soyuz Launch Complex (ELS) in Sinnamary, French Guiana.

The Launch Readiness Review (LRR) will take place on Monday, December 17, 2018 in Kourou to authorize the start of operations for the final countdown.

CSO-1 is the first satellite of the Optical Space Component (CSO – Composante Spatiale Optique) program, a constellation of three satellites dedicated to Earth observation for defense and security. They will be placed into polar orbit at different altitudes, and will carry out two different missions: reconnaissance for CSO-1 and CSO-3, and identification for CSO-2.

The French CNES space agency is delegated as the contracting authority for the Optical Space Component (CSO) program and its mission ground segment, as well as being the overall system co-architect. CNES also is responsible for orbital positioning, in-orbit acceptance testing and satellite operation.

France’s DGA defense procurement agency is contracting authority for the construction and through-life maintenance of the user ground segment, and will serve as the interface between the sensors deployed in space and the operators. The French armed forces headquarters is the operating authority for CSO.

The CSO-1 satellite will be placed in a Sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 800 km. It will be used to take 3D pictures and acquire very-high-resolution images in the visible and infrared bandwidths; day, night and in fair weather, using a variety of imaging modes to meet as many operational requirements as possible.

Since its creation in 1980, Arianespace has orbited a total of 590 satellites, including 68 intended for defense and security purposes (including auxiliary payloads). CSO-1, the first in a series of three first-generation satellites for the French armed forces ministry, will be the 42nd satellite launched by Arianespace for CNES and DGA.

Airbus Defence and Space France is prime contractor for the CSO satellites, while Thales Alenia Space France supplies the optical imaging instrument. CSO-1 will be the 123rd Airbus Defence and Space satellite to be launched by Arianespace. 

For further information, download the Flight VS20 Launch Kit by clicking here:

To watch a live, high-speed online transmission of the launch (including commentary in French and English from the launch site), go to or to on December 18, 2018, beginning 20 minutes before liftoff.

About Arianespace 

Arianespace uses space to make life better on Earth by providing launch services for all types of satellites into all orbits. It has orbited more than 590 satellites since 1980, using its family of three launchers, Ariane, Soyuz and Vega, from launch sites in French Guiana (South America) and Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

Arianespace is headquartered in Evry, near Paris, and has a technical facility at the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, plus local offices in Washington, D.C., Tokyo and Singapore.

Arianespace is a subsidiary of ArianeGroup, which holds 74% of its share capital, with the balance held by 15 other shareholders from the European launcher industry.

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