The SPOT 5 Earth observation satellite was successfully placed into orbit by an Ariane 4 launch vehicle from the Guiana Space Centre, Kourou, at 1H 31 mn GMT local time during the night of 3 to 4 May 2002.

Satellite positioning operations and checkout of the satellite's systems went according to plan. The solar panels delivering power to the satellite deployed correctly, and the attitude control system is maintaining the satellite in Earth-pointing configuration. The imaging instruments -- HRS, HRG and VEGETATION 2 -- are now set to be switched on and the first images confirming that the system is functioning correctly are expected very soon.

Compared to its predecessors, SPOT 5 offers greatly enhanced capabilities that are going to strengthen SPOT Image's position in the commercial imagery and geospatial market. The company is leveraging these new capabilities to redefine the sales strategy and distribution network based on the global markets' strong demand for SPOT 5 products and services. It has already signed two channel partnership agreements for exclusive distribution of SPOT data: DigitalGlobe in the U.S. defense and agriculture markets; ImageONE in Japan for the national security market.

SPOT 5's High Resolution Geometric (HRG) sensors will provide improved 2.5 meter and 5 meter resolution imagery over wide swaths (up to 60 x 120 km). The balance between high resolution, wide-area coverage and value-based pricing will expand existing markets, and open new global markets to SPOT in urban/regional mapping, business, disaster management, flight simulations and more.

SPOT 5's other key feature is the dedicated High Resolution Stereo (HRS) instrument which will do large area "strip mapping" with stereo imagery. This imagery will be used to create digital elevation models for precise 3D terrain mapping in flight simulation, cellular network planning and environmental modeling.

The VEGETATION 2 sensor on SPOT 5 will also provide continuity of environmental monitoring on a daily global basis (1 km resolution), like its predecessor on SPOT 4.

SPOT 5 is expected to enter operational commercial service after its anticipated two month commissioning period.