Encyclopedia Astronautica
Helios 1A-1B


French military surveillance satellite. 2 launches, 1995.07.07 (Helios 1A) to 1999.12.03 (Helios 1B). Helios 1A an 1B were advanced French military surveillance satellites which were widely believed to have 1 meter resolution capability.

The Missile and Space Directorate (DME) of the French armament agency (DGA) headed the overall $2 billion Helios program. Spacecraft and payload information was not readily available due to the secret nature of the program.

The Helios program was Europe's military optical reconnaissance system consisting of both a space and a ground segment, which commenced service in 1995, jointly funded by the French, Italian and Spanish governments. The Helios I optical observation satellites, launched in July 1995 and December 1999 respectively, could acquire high resolution images of any point on the globe, with daily revisit capability.

The spacecraft was 3-axis stabilized, nadir pointing. CNES operated a Helios ground station in Toulouse, France. The imaging system used 4096 pixel and 2048 pixel linear CCDs to provide 1 - 5 meter resolution images. The CCDs were produced by Thompson CSF. Tape recorders were manufactured by Schlumberger Industries.

Gross mass: 2,537 kg (5,593 lb).
First Launch: 1995.07.07.
Last Launch: 1999.12.03.
Number: 2 .

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
See also
  • Ariane First successful European commercial launch vehicle, developed from L3S Europa launch vehicle replacement design. Development of the Ariane 1 was authorised in July 1973, took eight years, and cost 2 billion 1986 Euros. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Ariane French orbital launch vehicle. First successful European commercial launch vehicle, developed from L3S Europa launch vehicle replacement design. Development of the Ariane 1 was authorised in July 1973, took eight years, and cost 2 billion 1986 Euros. More...
  • Ariane 4 French orbital launch vehicle. The ultimate Ariane development. Compared with the Ariane 2/3, the Ariane 4 featured stretched first (61%) and third stages, a strengthened structure, new propulsion bay layouts, new avionics, and the Spelda dual-payload carrier. The basic 40 version used no strap-on motors, while the Ariane 42L, 44L, 42P, 44P, and 44LP versions used varous combinations of solid and liquid propellant strap-on motors). Development was authorised in January 1982, with the objective of increasing payload by 90%. Total development cost 476 million 1986 ECU's. More...
  • Ariane 40 French orbital launch vehicle. 3 stage core vehicle with original Ariane H10 upper stage. A fully fueled Ariane core cannot lift off the ground without strap-on liquid or solid motors. When Ariane 4 is launched in this configuration, the propellant tanks of the first and second stages are not completely filled. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • CNES French agency overseeing development of spacecraft. Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales, Paris, France. More...
  • DGA French agency overseeing development of spacecraft. Delegation Generale de l'Armament, France. More...

Bibliography
  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Home Page (launch records), Harvard University, 1997-present. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • JPL Mission and Spacecraft Library, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 1997. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA/GSFC Orbital Information Group Website, Web Address when accessed: here.
  • Space-Launcher.com, Orbital Report News Agency. Web Address when accessed: here.

Associated Launch Sites
  • Kourou After the agreement with newly independent Algeria for France to evacuate their launch sites in that country, a location near Biscarosse was selected for French missile testing. However since only launches westwards across the Bay of Biscay could be made from this site, it was unsuitable for France's Diamant orbital launch vehicle. After reviewing 14 potential sites, a location in the South American French colony of Guiana was selected. This would allow over-water launches to a tremendous range of possible orbital inclinations -- from -100.5 deg to 1.5 deg. Being near the equator, it would provide the maximum assist from the earth's rotation for launches into equatorial orbits. The decision was formalized in April 1964 and in July 1966 ELDO chose the site for future launches of the Europa II launch vehicle. More...

Helios 1A-1B Chronology


1995 July 7 - . 16:23 GMT - . Launch Site: Kourou. Launch Complex: Kourou ELA2. LV Family: Ariane. Launch Vehicle: Ariane 40. LV Configuration: Ariane 40-3 V75.
  • Helios 1A - . Mass: 2,537 kg (5,593 lb). Nation: France. Agency: CNES; DGA. Program: Helios. Class: Surveillance. Type: Military surveillance satellite. Spacecraft: Helios 1A-1B. USAF Sat Cat: 23605 . COSPAR: 1995-033A. Apogee: 682 km (423 mi). Perigee: 680 km (420 mi). Inclination: 98.1000 deg. Period: 98.40 min.

1999 December 3 - . 16:22 GMT - . Launch Site: Kourou. Launch Complex: Kourou ELA2. LV Family: Ariane. Launch Vehicle: Ariane 40. LV Configuration: Ariane 40-3 V124.
  • Helios 1B - . Mass: 2,750 kg (6,060 lb). Nation: France. Agency: DGA. Manufacturer: Toulouse. Program: Helios. Class: Surveillance. Type: Military surveillance satellite. Spacecraft: Helios 1A-1B. USAF Sat Cat: 25977 . COSPAR: 1999-064A. Apogee: 682 km (423 mi). Perigee: 680 km (420 mi). Inclination: 98.2000 deg. Period: 98.40 min. French optical military reconnaisance satellite based on Spot 4. Taken out of service in mid-October 2004, when the orbit of the satellite was lowered to 637 x 640 km, taking it out of the path of Helios 1A and the Helios 2A that would be launched in December 2004.

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