An Arianespace Soyuz rocket successfully launched a French reconnaissance satellite on December 29. The flight was likely the world’s final orbital mission of 2020.
The Soyuz ST-A was launched from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana at 16:42 UTC. The launch vehicle’s Fregat upper stage deployed the Composante Spatiale Optique (CSO) 2 satellite into low Earth orbit at an altitude of 480 kilometers approximately 60 minutes after liftoff.
Built by Airbus Defence and Space for the French space agency CNES and the French military, the 3,500-kilogram CSO-2 reconnaissance satellite is equipped with an imaging payload developed by Thales Alenia Space. The satellite is capable of capturing both optical and infrared imagery which enables acquisition during the night and day. The satellite is expected to remain operational for approximately 10 years.
The CSO-2 satellite is the second of a planned three-satellite CSO constellation. CSO-1 was launched in December 2018 and operates in an 800-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit. The final CSO satellite is scheduled to be launched in 2022 aboard a next-generation Ariane 6 rocket.
In addition to funding from the French Armed Forces, both Germany and Sweden contributed to the development of the CSO satellites. The partnership will see Germany receive access rights to imaging captured by the satellites and Sweden receive access to a polar ground station.
With the successful deployment of the CSO-2 satellite, the 2020 launched calendar has come to an end. Over the last year, 114 orbital launch attempts were made, up from 102 in 2019. Of the 114 launch attempts that were made, 10 ended in failure, which is twice as many as the year before. The United States saw the largest increase in the number of launch attempts with 17 additional missions for a total of 44 in 2020.