The French defence procurement agency (DGA) has selected Thales and Airbus Defence and Space as co-prime contractors for the design and construction of France's future military spaced-based signals intelligence (SIGINT) system, which is due to enter service by 2020.
In addition to its role as overall system co-prime contractor, Thales has responsibility for the mission payload on board the satellites and for the user ground segment in charge of programming the satellites and the data processing.
Capacité de Renseignement Electromagnétique d’origine Spatiale (CERES) will provide the French armed forces with an operational space-based SIGINT capability. Three closely positioned satellites will detect and locate radiocommunications and radars. The system also includes a ground control segment, to be provided by the French space agency CNES, and the user ground segment. Intelligence is one of four priorities identified by the French defence white paper, and funding was earmarked for SIGINT, including the CERES programme, under the 2014-2019 defence spending plan.
Airbus Defence and Space will have responsibility for the space segment, comprising the three satellites that will integrate the SIGINT payloads. Thales Alenia Space will supply the platform under subcontract to Airbus Defence and Space.
Pierre Eric Pommellet, Thales Executive Vice-President, Defence Mission Systems stated, "This satellite system will be one of the most sophisticated in the world, giving France a capability that few nations possess. To design and build CERES, we will be drawing on the experience and expertise acquired on the ESSAIM and ELISA demonstrators."