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January Image of the Month: First look at Pléiades 1A data

Mark Alonzo

On December 22 CNES, the French space agency, published excerpts from the first images returned by its new Pléiades 1A sensor, launched December 17, 2011 by Soyouz.  Pléiades 1A was designed and built by Astrium GEO-Information Services for CNES.  Astrium will also distribute the data products.  Pléiades 1A collects high-resolution, coregistered, panchromatic and multispectral image data.  The spectral bands and spatial resolution are similar to those of US sensors such as QuickBird, with the panchromatic band having a 50-cm resolution.

Pléiades 1A has a 20-km ground swath, which is broader than that of any existing comparable sensor.  In addition, it has the ability to quickly swivel its sensor to acquire an even wider strip, or mosaic, of images around its target during a single pass overhead. The first full images from Pléiades 1A will be released to a limited audience in mid-January 2012, after the satellite reaches its final orbit.  Astrium expects to begin distributing Pléiades 1A products to all users in March 2012.

CNES plans to launch a twin sensor, Pléiades 1B, in 2013. After that launch, the Pléiades sensors will be capable of imaging any point on the globe on a daily basis.  The two Pléiades sensors will use the same orbit as SPOT 6 and 7, so that the four satellites will comprise a constellation capable of revisiting any point on the globe multiple times per day.

One of the innovations of Pléiades 1A is the ability to acquire both stereoscopic and tri-stereoscopic imagery.  Tri-stereoscopy is stereoscopy with an additional quasi vertical image.  This capability will allow Pléiades 1A to provide a 3-dimensional context for its optical data.

A first look at data from Pléiades 1A Multispectral Imagery
The Hassan II mosque, in Casablanca, Morocco, imaged by Pléiades 1A in December 2011.

“Over the next few months, Pléiades 1A will unveil its numerous innovations. Agility and reactivity are the new terms which now rhyme with very high-resolution imagery” declared Patrick le Roch, Executive Director of Astrium GEO-Information Services.

What do you think is the greatest benefit to satellite constellations like this? And, how do you think it will impact the remote sensing community?

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