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Helios is not intelligence in "real time"

Three Western European countries use state-of-the-art photographic intelligence satellites, how are they different from US satellites?

The launch of the Helios satellite last year doubled the number
The photographic intelligence satellites operated by European countries. France,
Italy and Spain currently enjoy a modern system of strategic intelligence -
Although it is still far from the capabilities of the USA and Russia. But the approach
of the Europeans to build an intelligence-photographic satellite ("contractual intelligence"),
Different from the approaches of the two big ones.

Helios is a direct derivative, a version of the "Spot" series satellites
which are intended for the mapping and research of land resources.

Among the builders of the satellites intended for contract intelligence - the Americans or
The Russians - so far the prevailing attitude is that they should build large telescopes,
place them in space and point them towards the earth.

Although many details concerning the structure of these satellites are confidential -
Something can be learned about them, from the assumption that they are similar to observation tools
Astronomers currently celebrating in space.

The prototype for the optical spy satellite built by the US in the XNUMXs is
The "Hubble" space telescope. It has a main appearance that is about two and a half in diameter
meter and its ability to separate (resolution) is excellent. Without interruptions
Atmospheric - and if it was stationed at a distance of about 250 km above the ground -
The space telescope was capable of photographing details, in spite of a one shekel coin
(!). It is very likely that the optical performance of the intelligence-photographic satellites
Improved than those - perhaps thanks to the activation of active optics, which cancels
Partially the atmospheric disturbances or through the use of improved detectors.
A similar capability probably also exists in the Russian satellites.

The telescopes that photograph the ground from the first generation satellites of a series
Helios, smaller. Therefore, they have a lower separation capacity. Likely
Therefore, by improving the capabilities of spot satellites, it is possible to reach fitness
A separation of one meter, maybe even better than that - from the height where you work
The satellites (1000-250 km).

Also this separation ability, if it is accompanied by multispectral ability
(multi-colored), can provide significant intelligence.

The problem is: the low availability of the Helios system, currently based on
Only two satellites. The satellites are placed in space in orbits
Heliosynchronous - passing close to the Earth's poles. the face of the earth
that "spin" under them, revealing in each track, only a different "segment" (of a sphere
Country).

Europeans have another limitation: they cannot transmit the data
which are collected at any moment from the satellite, since they do not have satellites at their disposal
Communications such as the American TDRSS system.
The result: the Helios satellites store the spy photos inside them, until they
are in contact with the ground control stations. This means: intelligence
which is not provided in "real time".

The countries using Helios services are now planning the next generation of
This family of satellites. The main improvement that will apply to Helios-2 will be
By adding an infrared channel that will enable night vision in the future
(when there are no clouds). In the next step, radar satellites will also be added to the system,
May they also be able to see through the clouds.

The operation of the Helios satellites was entrusted in France to the Air Force. the requirements
Space photography is provided by the Intelligence Administration of the Armed Forces (
Direction du Rensegnement Militaire).

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