- , June 1, 2018

Quick Facts

Role and Mobility Early Warning; Space-Based
Frequency S-Band for Communications, X-Band for Transmissions
Range N/A
Air Defense Interceptor Systems N/A
Targets Ballistic Missiles
Status/Exports Operational; N/A
Producer EADS Astrium and Alcatel Space



SPIRALE is a spaceborne early warning demonstrator program for the French Ministry of Defense. SPIRALE is an acronym for Systeme Preparatoire Infra-Rouge pour l’Alerte, translated as Preparatory System for Infra-Red Early Warning in English.[i] It is composed of two microsatellites in geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) and a ground segment for satellite control and image processing. SPIRALE is meant to pave the way for a future operational, early warning optical space program, eventually forming a strategic link in an anti-ballistic missile defense system.

Strategic Implications

Strategically, SPIRALE is most valuable for its ability to detect ballistic missiles during their boost phase, just after launch, by using infrared imagery against a land background.[ii] Early warning, such as this, allows the French military adequate time to ready their missile defense systems to respond to an incoming attack. Another valuable aspect of SPIRALE is its size. The SPIRALE satellite platform accommodation is very compact as a result of being redesigned for radiation hardening reasons and integration optimization.[iii]


May 2009: SPIRALE was accepted by the French Armament Procurement Agency.[iv]

February 2009: SPIRALE-A and SPIRALE-B were launched on Ariane-5 from ECA from Kourou.[v]

July 2006: SPIRALE underwent its Critical Design Review.

January 2004: The SPIRALE program begins.[vi]

Recent News


    [i] https://earth.esa.int/web/eoportal/satellite-missions/s/spirale

    [ii] http://www.defense-aerospace.com/articles-view/release/3/32129/france-orders-ew-satellite-demonstrator-%28jan.-21%29.html

    [iii] https://earth.esa.int/web/eoportal/satellite-missions/s/spirale

    [iv] http://www.astrium.eads.net/node.php?articleid=267

    [v] https://spaceflightnow.com/ariane/v187/

    [vi] https://earth.esa.int/web/eoportal/satellite-missions/s/spirale