SPOT 6 reached its final orbital slot on September 22nd and a review of this initial positioning phase was successfully completed on 12 October. This review marks the transition between satellite launch and the formal system review at the end of in-orbit checkout, slated for December. Activities are advancing on schedule and SPOT 6 products should be on sale as planned in January 2013.
The review also included an exhaustive analysis of the in-orbit status of the satellite’s subsystems. All systems have been powered up and are functioning nominally. Fuel consumption has been tightly controlled, commensurate with the satellite’s planned 10-year operating lifetime.
The satellite’s performance is being assessed with special emphasis on its agility. Uplink of tasking work plans is ramping up and the satellite is operating at 50% of its acquisition capacity. Tasking plans currently include the direct receiving stations in China, Mexico and Russia, as well as the main receiving stations in Toulouse and Kiruna. Once operating at full capacity, SPOT 6 will be able to acquire 250 strips, i.e., 3 million sq.km or the equivalent of 750 SPOT 5 scenes.
Other series of tests will continue up to the review at the end of in-orbit checkout. These include system and geometric calibration tests, attitude data checking, spectral band registration and integration of production and operating systems.
Four Strips in a Single Pass
Agility Test Over Cyprus
The 9,251 sq.km of Cyprus were acquired in a single pass by SPOT 6. The whole island was covered from east to west in four strips in 1 minute and 30 seconds, including acquisition and satellite repositioning times.
Other agility tests were also performed, like this east-west acquisition below. Seven images were in acquired in two minutes within a single pass along the north coast of Java.
Seven Strips in a Single Pass
Quick-response tests have highlighted the leap in tasking performance from SPOT 5 to SPOT 6. For example, SPOT 5 takes at least 12 hours from reception of a tasking request to image acquisition. For SPOT 6, this time has been cut to three hours.
Other quick-response tests have also demonstrated the ability to acquire and downlink data in less than three hours, move from a single tasking plan to six plans a day, integrate weather forecasts four times a day and change a tasking plan less than 2 hours and 30 minutes before a satellite pass.
Once commercial operations get underway, tasking requests will be possible 24/7 from any point on the globe via Astrium Services’ Geostore web portal.
SPOT 6 Success Story