French Spot 5 Earth-imager ready for business

Posted: July 16, 2002

The newest commercial eye-in-the-sky has been declared fully operational after two months of tests and checkouts since its launch in early May.

The French space agency CNES gave the go-ahead to Spot Image to begin commercial operations with the new Spot 5 satellite on July 12, marking the end of the two-month verification period that made sure everything aboard the craft was functioning as expected.

Spot 5 satellite view of Paris, France. Photo: Cnes 2002/Distribution Spot Image
Spot 5 was launched aboard an Ariane 4 rocket on May 3 from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Soon after separation from the launcher's third stage, the spacecraft began deploying its electricity-producing solar arrays and ground controllers commanded the imaging instruments to turn on to begin a rigorous checkout regime.

The first images were released about a week after launch, and over 23,000 images have been captured thus far in Spot 5's predicted 5-year lifetime.

Since then, the satellite's systems and most of its payload have been fully tested by the ground team. The Vegetation 2 instrument is the only component that has not completed the checkout period, but officials say that instrument should be on-line by November. Preliminary data from Vegetation 2 indicates that it is functioning normally.

The spacecraft's two High Resolution Geometric instruments are reported to be in excellent condition, and image quality from the two imagers has "exceeded specifications," Spot Image said in a statement. The optical HRG's acquire images in black and white at a resolution up to two-and-a-half meters and in color at a 10-meter resolution. The new High Resolution Stereoscopic payload that produces elevation and terrain models is also working as expected.

Spot 5's image resolution is up to four times better than previous Spot spacecraft, which featured a maximum resolution of 10 meters in black and white and 20 meters in color.

Spot Image plans to market the Spot 5 products to a wide variety of users via over 100 distributors around the world. Applications include agriculture, land use and urban planning, cartography, disaster monitoring, environmental studies, and surveillance.

With the sharper and bigger Spot 5 now operational, it joins the Spot 1, Spot 2, and Spot 4 satellites in providing commercial imagery.

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