German Earth-observing radar satellite launched
BY STEPHEN CLARK
Posted: November 1, 2007
The next building block in a fleet of German spy satellites designed to see through clouds and darkness was launched to space early Thursday from Russia's Arctic space base.
SAR-Lupe 3 blasted off atop a 105-foot-tall Kosmos 3M booster at 0051 GMT Thursday (8:51 p.m. EDT) from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, according to Russian news reports.
The two-stage rocket deposited the 1,700-pound payload in a Sun-synchronous orbit more than 300 miles high about 30 minutes after liftoff.
The SAR-Lupe program will eventually consist of five spacecraft fitted with large X-band radar antennas to keep tabs on regions around the world. The radar system emits radio beams toward Earth that reflect off the planet to be collected by sensors mounted on the exterior of the spacecraft.
The radar pulses are not affected by night or clouds, giving such systems an advantage over optical cameras that can only capture images during mostly clear skies in daytime.
The satellites can produce high-resolution imagery showing objects as small as three feet, according to OHB-System, the spacecraft's prime contractor.
The German military will operate the satellites for up to ten years to track global hot spots.
“With SAR-Lupe, the German Federal Armed Forces have arguably the world's most modern satellite reconnaissance system,” said Manfred Fuchs, CEO of OHB-System.
Germany will share imagery from the constellation with France under the European Reconnaissance System agreement. In exchange, Germany will be given access to the French Helios optical and infrared satellite system.
The first images from SAR-Lupe 3 are expected by the end of the month. Officials will transfer control of the spacecraft to the German military at about the same time.
SAR-Lupe 3 joins two identical satellites launched in December and July. Both craft are working well and producing good imagery, according to OHB-System.
SAR-Lupe 4 is scheduled for launch in late March, followed about five months later by the launch of the final member of the program.