French space agency CNES has awarded EADS Astrium a €314 million ($365 million) contract to build two Pleiades high-resolution imaging satellites. The spacecraft will form the optical imaging component of the Franco-Italian Orfeo system, a dual-use civil/military follow-on to the Spot series.

EADS will be prime contractor and will provide the satellite bus, while Alcatel Space will supply the high-resolution imaging sensor and datalink. The first Pleiades will be launched in 2008 and the second in 2009, both into the same sun-synchronous orbit. The craft will be manoeuvrable up to 60° in roll or pitch.

The Pleiades will provide 70cm-resolution panchromatic images covering a 20km (11nm) swathe. The satellites will have an onboard image data storage capacity of 600Gbits and a downlink capability of 4,500Mbits/s. The "mini-satellites" will weigh 1,000kg (2,200lb) and have 1.3hp (1kW) of onboard power.

Source: Flight International