The second SAR-Lupe satellite, part of the German observation system, has been successfully boosted into orbit from the Plesetsk space centre by a Russian Cosmos-3M rocket.

Thales Alenia Space has supplied the key Sensor Electronic units, which form the core of the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) that will provide high-resolution radar imagery to the German defense forces. These Sensor Electronic Units consist of radiofrequency, processing and control sub-units.

The mission is based on the most sophisticated technologies in the SAR radar field, able to get images under any weather or light conditions (day or night). The system will supply recent and high definition images of virtually any region in the world. It will provide images in X-band and offer a spatial resolution of less than 1 m. It can also operate in ‘spot light’ mode to improve the spatial resolution.

The SAR-Lupe program, which has a lifetime of 10 years, comprises a constellation of five identical small satellites, which will be positioned into three quasi-polar orbital planes at 500 km altitude, and a ground segment.

The ground segments for SAR-Lupe and the French Helios II systems will be inter-connected, so that each country can use the other's satellite and receive imagery. This data combination will significantly improve the reconnaissance capabilities of the two partner nations.

The construction and the launch contract of the five satellites was awarded in 2001 to a consortium of 13 European companies led by OHB-System AG as prime contractor, with the constellation scheduled to be completed in 2008.