The SPOT 7 Earth-observation satellite, designed and developed by Airbus Defence and Space, was launched on 30 June at 6:22 am (Paris time) by a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India. It will now join the orbit in which its twin, SPOT 6, and the very-high-resolution observation satellites Pléiades 1A and 1B are located, and will be positioned at 180° in relation to SPOT 6. After it has undergone a period of tests in orbit, Airbus Defence and Space’s optical constellation will be at its full operational capacity.
The company will thus operate a constellation of four optical satellites that will open up opportunities for new applications, providing the latest images within an unprecedented time frame. This means that every day, every point on the globe can be viewed both in high resolution by a SPOT satellite and in very high resolution by a Pléiades satellite. While SPOT 6 and 7 will cover wider areas with a resolution of 1.5 m, Pléiades 1A and 1B will be focused on more targeted zones with a greater level of detail (50 cm products).
Like its twin, SPOT 7 covers wide areas in record time. With both satellites in orbit, acquisition capacity will be boosted to six million square kilometres per day – an area ten times the size of France. The SPOT 6/7 constellation thus considerably improves the capabilities and performance offered by SPOT 5, which has been in operation since 2002 and which is scheduled to be decommissioned from commercial service during the first quarter of 2015. This new constellation offers a higher resolution, greater programming reactivity and a much higher volume of images acquired daily (in monoscopic or stereoscopic mode).
In addition, SPOT 6 and SPOT 7 are agile satellites that can be quickly aimed at a point on the Earth within up to 1,500 km of their position. They are designed to remain in service for at least 10 years. Airbus Defence and Space developed the SPOT 6 and 7 system in just three and a half years thanks to its complete mastery of satellite processes and technologies.
The new capabilities of SPOT 6, which began commercial operations in February 2013, fulfil requirements relating to national cartography at a scale of 1:25,000, for applications in the areas of land use, the struggle against deforestation, environmental monitoring, maritime surveillance and the oil industry.
SPOT 6 and 7 benefit fully from the expertise acquired by Airbus Defence and Space in operating and distributing satellite imagery over the last 30 years. The completion of this unique constellation also represents an opportunity for Airbus Defence and Space to establish new partnerships in order to widen access to and use of satellite imagery. This launch furthermore constitutes an important step in the process of finalising a strategic cooperation agreement with Azerbaijani satellite operator Azercosmos, which is looking at joint use of the satellites and to expand its own capacities in the field of geo-information. Azercosmos and Airbus Defence and Space signed an agreement in principle on this in May of this year.