Three French spy satellites put into orbit

They are called “Ceres”. They are three in number. And thanks to their successful launch on Tuesday November 16 from the Kourou base in Guyana, the French armies should in the coming months have a unique intelligence capacity in Europe: listening to radar and telecommunications signals. . What specialists call signals intelligence (ROEM).

Until now, France had mainly to rely on the United States in this matter. With this launch, it believes it is defending its strategic autonomy and joins the club of the few world military powers with this capacity, such as Russia, China and the United States.

Protection and support to operations

Concretely, the Ceres satellites built by Airbus Defense and Space and Thales have two main purposes. The first is to move upmarket in terms of “strategic” intelligence. Clearly, it is about being able to better map the world of transmitters, that is to say the location of telecommunication centers or all the radars that detect, trigger or control adverse systems, in particular linked to missiles. “We will thus be able to better protect ourselves from enemy ground-to-air systems”, explains General Thierry Blanc, deputy of the space command.

The second interest of the Ceres satellites for the armies concerns “the support to the operations”, whether it is to protect the troops intervening on the ground or the planes during their raids. They give the possibility to monitor “In the depths”, According to General Blanc, areas that have hitherto been inaccessible to conventional means of intercepting ROEM signals, such as Awacs type planes or the ship “Information collector” Dupuy-de-Lôme. One way to contribute to the air superiority of French aviation and to limit the so-called “denial of access” zones.

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These satellites are also of interest to the navy. It will now be possible to track ships of all kinds much more easily than before, in particular over time. An important issue at a time when the maritime domain is becoming more and more conflictual, especially in the Mediterranean and the Indo-Pacific.

Like all French satellites, the Ceres will be operated remotely by the National Center for Space Studies, based in Toulouse. The missions that will be entrusted to them and the choice of their positioning, on the other hand, will be decided and prepared from the Creil base (Oise), where the military intelligence department has a large part of its workforce. All the data collected will also be received at Creil. A huge challenge in terms of sorting, analysis and storage.

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