Arianespace launched the lightest of their three vehicles on Tuesday (sorry for my late post; it’s been busy) placing two Earth observation spacecraft into orbit: VENµS and OPTSAT-3000. Yes, you read that right — there’s a lower-case mu in the name of the first one. I think you’re meant to pronounce it “Venus”, but I’m not 100% sure.
VENµS is the Vegetation and Environment monitoring on a New Micro-Satellite (VENµS), which is where the mu comes from — one of the more creative acronyms I’ve seen. 😉 It was built by the Israeli Space Agency and will be operated by France’s CNES, which also supplied one of the instruments, as a cooperative venture between the two nations. This is Israel’s first major scientific spacecraft, following on from a nanosatellite they flew earlier in the year. The spacecraft will also test a Hall effect thruster supplied by ISA.
OPTSAT-3000, meanwhile, is Italy’s first optical surveillance spacecraft. It, too, was built in Israel, but this one is for military purposes. It joins Italy’s existing fleet of radar surveillance satellites. OPTSAT-3000 is part of a qui-pro-quo arrangement between the Italian and Israeli governments; in exchange for buying the satellite from Israel, Israel bought a set of Italian fighter jet trainers. The exact capabilities of OPTSAT-3000 are of course undisclosed, although Italy did indicate it would be comparable to Digital Globe’s best WorldView images.