The Italian parliament has approved the Italy/France-led Cosmo-Skymed/Pleiades project. The constellation will comprise two high-resolution optical and four synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) satellites. Launch of the first SAR satellite is scheduled for 2004, with the constellation to be fully operational by late 2006. The system is officially classed as "dual-role", with an earth observation civilian application, but will be managed and paid for by the military. Initial estimates put programme costs at €1.1 billion ($1 billion). Italy will contribute €600 million, with France providing the remaining €470 million. Alenia Spazio/Finmeccanica will be the Italian prime contractor.

Source: Flight International