France and Italy have agreed to develop jointly a $930 million radar and optical Earth observation satellite system for military and civilian use, with launches planned between 2003 and 2006.

Called Cosmos Pleiades, the system merges France's two planned high-resolution optical satellites and Italy's proposed four radar satellites.

Each 1,000kg (2,200lb) spacecraft will carry either a single optical or radar payload with a resolution of 1m (3ft), supplied by either Alcatel Space or Alenia Aerospazio, respectively.

Italy will, as part of the Cosmos Pleiades agreement, gain secure access to the French civilian Spot 5 remote-sensing satellite to be launched this year. This will have a ground imaging resolution of 2.5m. Italy also gains access to France's classified Helios 2 reconnaissance satellite.

Source: Flight International