WASHINGTON — Airbus and the French Space Agency CNES have agreed to cofinance a constellation of four Earth observation satellites while leaving the door open for Airbus to finance additional satellites with other partners.
The four satellites, referred to as the CO3D system, are expected to launch in 2022 aboard a Vega C rocket, with each satellite capable of imaging the Earth at a resolution of 50 centimeters.
In an interview, Philippe Pham, Airbus Space Systems’ head of Earth observation, navigation and science, said CNES is investing just under 100 million euros ($112 million) into the four satellites. Airbus is supplying “a bit more than the equivalent,” he said.
Pham said Airbus views the contract as a steppingstone to a larger constellation of “20-plus” satellites.
“We designed it as a constellation with capacity building to a ‘mini-constellation’ using the same design,” he said.
The CO3D satellites will each have a mass of 300 kilograms, and will use all-electric propulsion. The constellation is dual purpose: providing imagery to the French government, including scientific and military users, and imaging capacity for Airbus to commercialize.
Pham said Airbus’ desire to quickly expand on the initial four-satellite constellation stems ...