The Ministry of the Armed Forces wants a radio spectrum observation service demonstrator from space – Zone Militaire

In November 2021, after taking off from the Guiana Space Center [CSG] from Kourou, a Vega rocket put the three military satellites of the French CERES program into low orbit [CapacitÉ de Renseignement Électromagnétique Spatiale]intended to replace those of the ELISA type [ELectronic Intelligence by SAtellite]entered service ten years earlier.

Each weighing 516 kg, the satellites of the CERES constellation, positioned in a “triangle” at an altitude of around 700 km, collect data to locate and characterize the transmitters [radar, télécommunications, etc] wherever they are on land and at sea. Enough to give French forces a unique capability in Europe in terms of electromagnetic intelligence [ROEM].

However, the succession of CERES satellites is already underway, the Ministry of the Armed Forces having launched studies for the realization of the CELESTE program [Capacité ELEctromagnétique SpaTiaLE] by 2028.

“Both a space system and an intelligence system, CELESTE will have to adapt to the evolution of targets, threats and technologies to enable: the improvement of operational and technical capabilities [gammes de fréquences, délais de revisite, réactivité]broadening the spectrum of missions [dont part accrue de l’appui aux opérations, le cyberespace, l’accès au
contenu des communications, la couverture géographique]a contribution to space management actions, particularly in the field of knowledge of space systems and objects,” reads the budget documents published by the Ministry of the Economy and Finance.

In addition, he stresses that “the emergence of the market for commercial listening and associated services from a ‘New Space’ perspective opens up opportunities [capacité complémentaire], which remain to be investigated in the preparation phase”. And to add: The exploitation of data, with the now unavoidable recourse to automation and processing by artificial intelligence, can also benefit from innovations from the civilian world. In general, CELESTE will ensure that it takes advantage of the opportunities offered by civilian technologies to reduce costs and lead times while meeting military requirements”.

Hence, no doubt, the call for projects launched by the Defense Innovation Agency [AID]via the National Center for Space Studies [CNES].

Indeed, the FLORE project [pour Flight Demonstration of RoEm] aims to test a “demonstrator service for observing the radio spectrum from space on small platforms” and to determine its viability, capabilities and performance.

“The implementation of the service must be carried out within a maximum of 3 years from the date of notification of the contract with a probationary period of at least 2 years”, specifies the CNES. Interested companies have until November 17 to submit their proposals.

This service should make it possible to analyze communication signals, and even, possibly, radar transmissions. “In this case, a simultaneous acquisition of the two types of signals could be envisaged”, indicates the CNES.

In detail, he continues, it will be a question of making a “technical characterization” of these signals – emission frequency, power, bandwidth, nature of the signal [continue ou impulsionnelle et si possible le type de modulation] etc – and to work out a “localization on the surface of the Earth of the transmitters in order to provide the results [bruts et traités] to users via a secure interface accessible from the Internet.

In this call for projects, the CNES also specifies that the choice of a European launcher will be favoured, as far as possible. In any case, he continues, the envelope provided for the launch should “make it possible to respect the maximum amount allocated to the project”, i.e. six million euros. [hors taxes].

CNES is the privileged contact of the Ministry of the Armed Forces for space capabilities. Thus, it was through him that a call for tenders was launched last May to find a launch solution for the two YODA “patrol” satellites. [Yeux en Orbite pour un Démonstrateur Agile].

Photo: CERES Satellites

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The Ministry of the Armed Forces wants a radio spectrum observation service demonstrator from space – Zone Militaire

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