Germany’s first satellite-based reconnaissance system now completed - SAR-Lupe 5 successfully launched
Full system operability for the German Federal Armed Forces planned for the autumn
The fifth German SAR-Lupe reconnaissance satellite was successfully launched this morning from the Russian space center Plesetsk south of Archangelsk. The Russian Cosmos 3M launch vehicle lifted off on schedule at 4:40:09 hours CEST, releasing the radar satellite into its low-altitude orbit at a distance of around 500 km above the earth’s surface roughly half an hour later. The first contact between the control center at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Oberpfaffenhofen and the satellite was established at 5:43:13 hours CEST. A preliminary check of all vital functions showed that the satellite is operating perfectly. Work on putting the satellite into operation has already commenced.
SAR-Lupe 5 marks the completion of Germany’s first satellite-based reconnaissance system, which comprises five identical small satellites and a ground segment for managing the satellites and receiving and processing the radar images.
For OHB-System AG, which developed the entire system for the German Federal Office of Defense Technology and Procurement (BWB) and lead-managed a consortium of well-known European space technology companies, this launch marks the completion of a further chapter in its success story. Speaking today, Prof. Manfred Fuchs, CEO of OHB-System AG, had this to say: “This is a very special day for OHB. With the successful launch of the fifth satellite, an important development and integration program has now come to a conclusion for our team. During this period, we have been able to impressively demonstrate our technological expertise and prove that we are a skilled and reliable partner for the German Federal Armed Forces.”
With the SAR-Lupe system, the German Federal Armed Forces have been able to retrieve information in top quality from almost anywhere in the world regardless of light and weather conditions since December 2007. Under the ESGA project (German acronym for “Europeanization of Satellite-Based Reconnaissance”), OHB has created the technical basis for allowing France to use the German SAR-Lupe radar system. In return, Germany is able to access the French optical HELIOS II reconnaissance system. Commenting on the successful launch, the deputy of the inspector general of the German Federal Armed Forces and inspector of the Joint Support Service, Vice-Admiral Wolfram Kühn said this: “SAR-Lupe provides the German Federal Armed Forces and, thus, Germany as a whole with a entirely new quality in support for the early detection of crisis, preemptive action and effective crisis management. The early and unhindered access to high-resolution satellite images is making a crucial contribution to our reconnaissance activities and thus enhances our ability to assess situations, take action and make the necessary decisions. In terms of military policy, SAR-Lupe puts Germany eye to eye with other countries with respect to satellite-based reconnaissance capabilities. The system forms the basis for even closer collaboration between Germany and France, which commenced in January. In addition, we are able to contribute our own experience to plans for follow-up systems. All told, it ensures even better and effective involvement in international consultation and decision-making processes.”
Control of the fifth SAR-Lupe satellite is currently still in the hands of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) pending transfer to the German Federal Armed Forces. Says Thomas Reiter, the board member at DLR responsible for space travel research and development: “At DLR we have great experience in positioning satellites and putting them into operation. Our space control center in Oberpfaffenhofen has also successfully handled the tasks arising in connection with the five SAR-Lupe satellites with great dedication.”
The ground station of the German Federal Armed Forces in Gelsdorf is tracking the satellite at the same time and will assume operative responsibility around four weeks later. The SAR-Lupe system will achieve full deployment status in autumn. A special celebration is currently being planned to mark the handing-over the entire system to the German Federal Armed Forces.