Soyuz Rocket Launches Second Pleiades Satellite
December 3, 2012

Second Pleiades Satellite Launched Over The Weekend

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A Soyuz rocket carrying an Earth observation satellite has lifted off from a spaceport in French Guiana, officials from the Russian national space agency (Roscosmos) announced on Sunday.

According to RIA Novosti reports, the Russian Soyuz ST-a carrier rocket and its payload, the multi-purpose European observation satellite Pleiades 1B, lifted off at 6:03 Moscow time on Sunday.

The launch had been scheduled for Saturday morning, The Voice of Russian added, but had been delayed to do unspecified defects in one of the system's units.

The flight to put the satellite into orbit took 55 minutes, officials involved with the launch told the Associated Press (AP). This is the fourth Soyuz rocket to launch from French Guiana since October 2011.

The new satellite will join "its 'twin', Pleiades 1A, to collect high-resolution imagery of objects as small as 0.5 meters," RIA Novosti said. "The satellites, which took the French Space Agency (CNES) nearly a decade to develop, will be used by the French military, other European governments and commercial customers."

CNES officials told Reuters that Pleiades 1B will be "a significant improvement in technology over previous generation satellites," and that it is capable of transmitting high-resolution images of objects no larger than 27 inches (70 centimeters) from a 12-mile wide scan of the Earth's surface.

Its predecessor, Pleiades 1A, was launched in December 2011.

"With both satellites operating together, the Pleiades system will be able to cover up to 400,000 sq km of Earth´s surface every day -- an area almost as large as metropolitan France," CNES officials said in a press statement last month.

"New civil applications are therefore envisioned in geology, geophysics, biodiversity protection, flash flood monitoring, forestry and agriculture to name a few," they added. "The Pleiades system is scheduled to be fully operational by the 2nd quarter of 2013 on completion of in-orbit checkout of the 2nd satellite, which is expected to last a few months."