August 19, 2016


Pleiades is an international co-operation to meet the needs of civilian and military users.

Co-operation between France and Italy on a dual system: ORFEO (Optical and Radar Federated Earth Observation)

On 29 January 2001, an agreement was signed in Turin between the French and Italian governments concerning Earth Observation co-operation.

The purpose of this Agreement was to implement co-operation for setting up an Earth observation capability using optical and radar sensors, and mainly to define the context in which the dual-purpose system (military and civilian) was to be developed and used. This memorandum of understanding defines a global co-operation scenario in the civilian and defence fields. It thereby gives Italy access to the Helios 2 and SPOT 5 satellites, together with the design, development and operation of a new dual system called ORFEO, derived from the Pleiades project for the high resolution part, and from Cosmo-Skymed for the X-band radar component.

It is particularly indicated that the ORFEO (dual) system to be developed must include:

  • an optical component composed of two satellites and the associated ground segment, developed under French control,
  • a radar component composed of four satellites and the associated ground segment, developed under Italian control.

The system must also ensure:

  • the protection of defence interests in terms of security and priority of mission requests,
  • that civilian or commercial users' needs are satisfied in terms of general operational capacity, quick access to data, image availability, and quality and the competitiveness of the services supplied.

The memorandum of understanding was followed by a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA), for the ORFEO system definition step, between the French space agency (CNES) and the Italian space agency (ASI). The MoA was signed on 22 June 2001 at the Paris Air Show.
The Memorandum of Agreement for the realization phase is being finalized.
The first High Resolution satellite (Pleiades-1A) was launched on 17 December 2011.

Co-operation on the Pleiades dual system

In agreement with the governmental directives and respecting the constraints of the Franco-Italian agreement, co-operations are set up with Austria, Belgium, Spain and Sweden. In return of their participation, the co-operating countries will receive an access to the programming and to the system archive equivalent to their participation in the development according to the same pattern of development as for the SPOT series.

    • Co-operation with Austria
      Austria's contribution will amount to 1% of the cost of the whole programme as part of a Memorandum of Agreement established between CNES and ASA (Austrian Space Agency).

    • Co-operation with Belgium
      In the continuity of the co-operation between France and Belgium within the framework of the SPOT programme, the conditions of the Belgian participation were defined in the 6th amendment to the Agreement between the French government and the Belgian government (Belspo). Belgium indicated that it will take part up to 4% of the cost of the programme.

    • Co-operation with Spain
      A co-operation agreement was signed between CNES and the INTA on 6 April 2005. Spain will take part up to 3% of the whole cost the programme. Spain will have an access to the defence high priority programming in the framework of an agreement to be established with the French Ministry of Defence. Spain will also develop its own reception and processing means.

    • Co-operation with Sweden
      In the continuity of the co-operation between France and Sweden within the framework of the SPOT programme, the conditions of the Swedish participation were defined in a Memorandum of Agreement between CNES and the SNSB (Swedish National Space board) signed on 16 March 2005. The participation of Sweden to the whole programme will reach up to 3% of the cost of the Pléiades HR system. Moreover, Sweden will ensure, through its station network, services for data reception and the satellites' telemetry and telecommand.

Ground Segment Industrial Organization

Programming ChainCap Gemini + CSSI
Sub-contractors: Astrium, Silicomp-AQL, Thales E&C, Clemessy, Spacebel
Image ChainThales IS
Sub-contractors: Cap Gemini, Vega Technologies, Magellium, Silocomp-AQL, ELCA Informatique, Thales E&C, APX Computer Sud, Trasys
X Band StationIN-SNEC
Sub-contractors: Cap Gemini
User Centre IntegrationAstrium + Cap Gemini + CSSI + Thales IS + INDRA
Serving ground segmentCSSI

Satellite Industrial Organization


PLEIADES Instrument
Thales Alenia Space

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  Alcatel Espacio




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