Helios 2 – the French Reconnaissance Satellite

The Helios 2B satellite. Photo by: CNES

Helios 2B is scheduled to replace the Helios 2A launched in 2004. These ‘second generation’ Helios satellites weigh 4.2 tons. It will orbit the earth at a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 700 km and is designed for useful mission life of five years.

The French military reconnaissance satellite was built by EADS Astrium, its high resolution imaging payload was developed by The Thales Alenia. The Helios satellites were developed in partnership with Belgium, Spain, Italy and Greece. Germany and Italy are also provided access to the Helios 2 system, under bilateral exchange agreements which also include e Cosmo-SkyMed SAR-Lupe radar imaging satellites.

The Helios 2B satellite. Photo by: CNES

December 10, 2009: Helios-2B was launched December 18, 2009 after a delay of several days. The satellite was launched on an Ariane 5 GS rocket oriuginally scheduled for launch on Flight 193 on December 9, 2009 from the French Guiana space centre at Kourou.