On 17th December 2011, the high-resolution French satellite Pleiades-1 was successfully launched from Kourou launch site (French Guiana). This 1-ton spacecraft was put into the morning sun-synchronous orbit at 694km altitude and, after orbital testing, will start delivering colour images of the Earth’s surface at a spatial resolution of up to 50cm.

The European EADS-Astrium consortium has been developing the Pleiades satellites since late 2003 together with Thales Alenia Space company: It is based on smaller, cheaper, more agile satellites than its predecessors, highly successful Spot series of satellites which have operated an uninterrupted service since 1986 and whose platform is currently also in use for nearly all European Low Earth Observation programmes (notably ERS, Envisat, MetOp and Helios). Pléiades incorporates innovative technology such as the gyroscopic actuators that will be carried for the first time in Europe on board the Pléiades satellites to provide unprecedented performance.

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