A satellite is launched, and time flies, plans are made, but are the expectations met? In this case a resounding yes, for Airbus Defense and Space's Pléiades constellation. Five years after the launch from the Guiana Space Center with first the Pléiades 1A and then joined by its twin Pléiades 1B a few months later this was the start of the Pléiades constellation, an ambitious service that creates an imagery product of every point of the globe at a 50cm resolution within a few hours and guarantees a daily revisit, with more than one million km² acquired each day.
The Pléiades constellation has demonstrated its reactivity during the earthquake that rocked Ecuador on April 16, 2016, providing an image on the town of Pedernales in just four hours after being acquired. Immediately delivered to the local authorities, it enabled organizers to provide the various relief operations, and to carry out a rapid assessment of the damage.
The precision and speed of the Pléiades imagery over large regions also played a key role in demonstrating the demolition of the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria by the Islamic State in 2015 and thereby creating a consciousness for the need of preservation of this UNESCO world heritage site.
The two satellites, built and operated by Airbus Defence and Space on behalf of CNES (the French Space Agency), are the first European satellites to observe the Earth in very high resolution. Providing imagery products at 50cm resolution with a 20km swath, they are positioned 180 degrees apart in a same near-polar, sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 694 km. They also have remarkable agility which allows them to aim a point up to 1500 km on either side of their track. This gives them a fast zone-pointing capability and multiple shooting modes (stereo, mosaics, corridor, targets).