STUTTGART, Germany — Three French military signals intelligence satellites are now in space after a successful launch Tuesday morning aboard an Arianespace Vega rocket from the nation’s spaceport in French Guiana.
The constellation — called CapacitÉ de Renseignement Électromagnétique Spatiale, or CERES — will allow France to better collect intelligence from electromagnetic origins in space, the country’s Ministry of Defense said in a Tuesday press release.
The three satellites will be positioned about 700 km from Earth in low-Earth orbit, per the ministry. This will allow France to collect data that was previously inaccessible from land, sea, or airborne sensors, and for the country’s military to more quickly and effectively adapt to new operational scenarios.
“CERES will make it possible to detect and locate, from space, systems, such as radars, radio or communication means, and provide their technical characteristics,” the ministry said. The all-weather systems will be operational 24 hours a day, and capable of collecting electromagnetic intelligence anywhere in the world.
Minister of Defense Florence Parly on Tuesday hailed the successful launch as the nation demonstrating further sovereignty and strategic independence in the space domain. “France is confirming its strength in the space sector, by combining technologies and resources that few countries in the world have mastered,” she said.
Airbus Defence and Space is the prime contractor for the €450 million ($510 million) CERES program, with Thales Defence Mission Systems in charge of the payload and user ground segment.
The satellites will be operated and tracked by France’s Centre national d’études spatiales (CNES), while the French procurement office Direction générale de l’armement (DGA) is in charge of the whole program.
CERES is one of multiple satellite development programs being funded under the nation’s 2019-2025 military program law, and the French military plans to spend 646 million euros in the space domain in 2022. Additionally, the Air and Space Force expects to complete its CSO Earth observation satellite constellation with the third system’s launch in 2022.
The first Syracuse IV system was launched Oct. 23 aboard an Ariane 5 rocket, and will be an upgrade over the current Syracuse III system, providing greater connectivity for multi-domain operations.
Tuesday’s launch, from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, was the third Vega launch in 2021, and the 12th Arianespace mission of the year.
Vivienne Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, contributing to Defense News' European coverage. She previously reported for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defence Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2020.