21 November 2017 HRS camera: a development and in-orbit success
Author Affiliations +
Proceedings Volume 10568, International Conference on Space Optics — ICSO 2004; 105680K (2017) https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2307977
Event: International Conference on Space Optics 2004, 2004, Toulouse, France
Embarked on-board SPOT5, the French Earth Observation Satellite, the High Resolution Stereoscopic (HRS) camera, dedicated to simultaneous acquisition of stereo pairs with 60 km x 120 km wide swath and 10 m spatial resolution create Digital Elevation Models (DEM) with 10 m elevation accuracy. After on year inorbit, the instrument exhibits excellent performances.

Mainly built around two dioptric optics arranged with a 40° angle, which optimises the elevation performances, the HRS camera was developed in one shot, direct qualification and validation on flight model.

After a description of HRS instrument architecture, design and performances, this paper describes its development and on-ground verification results. Then, the elevation in-orbit accuracy performances and the DEM end-products are presented.





The HRS mission is to generate Digital Elevation Model (DEM), geographical maps that include the altitude information, from stereoscopic pairs of images acquired sequentially by the High Resolution Stereoscopic HRS instrument mounted on SPOT5 satellite.

To satisfy defence, institutional cartography, geographical information system, telecommunication markets1, the HRS mission is sized to acquire 30 millions km2 over 5 years with 10 m elevation accuracy.


Instrument principle and dimensioning

Based on a push-broom concept with a wide optical field of view, the HRS instrument acquires each image of the stereo pair from:

  • A row scanning obtained by the reading of a 12000 pixels CCD detector with a 10 m pixel resolution

  • A column scanning obtained by the satellite velocity over its orbit. Thanks to the frequency sampling, the resolution is 5 m on this axis.

Stereo pairs are acquired along track in panchromatic spectral band [0.48μm - 0.7μm] by two cameras (fore and aft cameras), tilted by ± 20° with respect to Nadir about the track direction to ensure a 0.8 B/H ratio that optimises the elevation accuracy. SPOT5 being located at 830 km altitude, 600 km length of stereo strips is ensured, two consecutive stereo strips being spaced by 600 km as illustrated on Fig.1. To access any point on the earth surface within the orbital cycle without out-of-track sighting capability, selected for design simplicity reasons, the track width is greater than 109 km.


HRS imaging scenario


Getting excellent elevation accuracy is only possible with good radiometric and image finesse performances. Therefore, Modulation Transfer Function (MTF) characterizing the image quality and signal over noise ratio are of prime importance for the DEM accuracy and drive the instrument design and performances.


HRS imaging characteristics

Nb of pixels/row12000
Ground samplingRow, 10 mColumn, 5 m
Swath Width120 km
Viewing angle-20° (fore camera)+20° (aft camera)
Spectral panchromatic range0.48 μm - 0.70 μm
Min observable luminanceL1 = 19 (W.m-1.sr-1.μm-1)
Max observable luminanceL4 = 379 (W.m-1.sr-1.μm-1)


Architecture and functions

The architecture of HRS instrument, briefly illustrated on the diagram hereunder, provides the following functional subassemblies:

Optical Assembly

Mounted on the instrument structure via quasi-isostatic mounts, 2 cameras, oriented at +20°/-20° with respect to Nadir, ensure the optical imaging and spectral filtering, the signal detection and video generation.

Each camera is composed of a detection unit coupled to a refractive telescope that provides the image quality and the focusing on the CCD detector thanks to a 11 lenses optical combination. Two parallel blades on the telescopes front side realize the spectral filtering and the radiation shielding (SUPRASIL blade). The telescope focus, key optical quality parameter, is thermally compensated and controlled. The telescope characteristics are:

▪ Focal distance:580 mm
▪ Useful optical diameter:150 mm

Based on a Thomson TH 7834 CCD (12000 pixels of 6,5 x 6,5μm2) and its proximity electronics, the detection unit is directly mounted on the rear side of the telescopes to ensure the focus stability performance. In this configuration, the CCD, controlled at 24 °C, is thermally and mechanically coupled to the telescopes. The proximity electronics dissipated power is evacuated thanks to specific radiators mounted on the top of the detection units. The detection unit sequencing and the acquisition of the video signal is performed by the MVS (Module Video Stereo).


HRS telescopes during integration and alignment on the main structure



Ultra light and highly stable, the main structure, made of Al honeycomb / CFRP sandwich, featuring new cyanate material (low thermal and moisture expansion figures), ensures a stable accommodation of the instrument units and decoupled interfaces with the satellite. In addition, secondary structures are implemented to support the active thermal control (MVS and Optical Assembly thermal hoods) and to avoid sun entrance in the cameras (sun cap).

Thermal control

The Optical Assembly accurate thermal control (+ 0,5°C temperature and thermal gradient stabilities), avoiding the use of any refocusing mechanism, is achieved thanks to a thermal enclosure concept that radiatively controls the high thermal inertia assembly via a combination of active and passive thermal control. Instrument control electronics

Accommodated inside a single unit, the instrument control electronics (MVS) provides management, housekeeping, detection sequencing and video electronics.

The management and housekeeping electronics realize the implementation of instrument modes and monitoring, the active heat control of the instrument and the standard SPOT5 interfaces with the satellite (DC/DC conversion of the satellite power bus and OBDH data handling bus). A CCD sequencing electronics, a Video electronics at 4,1Mpixels.s-1, capable of up to 10 Mpixels.s-1 and a 12 bits analog to digital conversion complete the detection chain and provide HRS images digital information to the satellite.


HRS instrument fully integrated (MLI not shown)



HRS exploded view



Accomodation on SPOT5

HRS instrument accommodation on SPOT5 is driven by two main considerations: on one hand, the maximization of interfaces decoupling between SPOT5 and HRS instrument and on the other hand, the minimization of the mechanical path between HRG and HRS instruments to optimise their relative stability.

Thermal isolation (MLI, thermal washers) is implemented at instrument interfaces. Mechanical decoupling is achieved via isostatic mounts used on sensitive instrument units (cameras).


HRS on the earth side of SPOT5 satellite



Main performance data

HRS performances deal with:

  • Geometrical performances:

    • Alignment stability between cameras

    • Alignment stability between each camera and the instrument alignment reference

  • Radiometric performances

    • Signal over noise ratio

    • Linearity, Resolution, Dispersion

  • Optical performances

    • MTF

    • Straylight, Polarisation, Transmission


Main instrument performances requirements

Functional performancesComments
Alignment stability< 150 μradBetween cameras
< 500 μradBetween each camera and optical reference
S/B ratio> 130 @ L2L2= 118 W.m-1.sr-1.μm-1
MTF> 0,18Across Track
> 0,20Along Track
Mass< 90 kg 
Power< 75 WConsumption in imaging mode
Reliability / availability> 0,98For the nominal mission




Instrument development


Decision to implement HRS mission on SPOT5 was finalised in the very beginning of year 1999 with the major condition that HRS development should not delay the overall satellite timescale. This resulted in an overall timescale for HRS instrument development of 2 years.

Development logic

Given the available time, it was necessary to start in parallel units and instrument studies during the early engineering phase and to select a mono model philosophy, direct manufacturing of proto-flight model. Therefore, the instrument development was split in three phases, as illustrated on Fig.6:


HRS development logic

  • Architecture and design phase (from T0 to T0+5), concluded by a Preliminary Design Review

  • Consolidation phase (from T0+5 to T0+15), concluded by a Manufacturing Release Review

  • Qualification phase (from T0+15 to T0+25), concluded by a Qualification Review

The early engineering phase was an essential step for the success of the HRS challenging development. Indeed, to speed up the instrument definition, concurrent engineering was implemented with joint teams working in parallel to early identify design drivers and freeze the architecture, the design and the interfaces of the overall instrument. This phase has led to develop in parallel all mathematical models, to run simulations and establish budgets, each industrial team being fed in quasi real time by the others’ study outputs. For the same schedule constraints reasons, bulk of HRS instrument electronics are made of Mil standard parts, with adequate screening. Extensive use of Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) components for digital electronics allowed simple, late and quick design evolution. At satellite interface level, full « High-Rel » standard components are used.


Instrument verification

Verification logic

Combination of analyses, simulations and tests, HRS verification and qualification programme was successfully held in 2000. However, the full qualification and the instrument flight worthy ability was only pronounced in 2001 after successful EMC qualification performed at S/L level.


HRS in vacuum chamber during TB/TV tests


The verification programme, done at instrument level, followed the following sequence:

  • Instrument alignment: fore wrt aft camera alignment and alignment of cameras wrt alignment reference

  • Functional and performances tests at ambient: modes management, thermal control, geometrical, radiometric and optical performances

  • Reference test: sub-set of functional and performances parameters verification to trend the instrument health up to launch

  • Mechanical qualification: mass and design qualification under mechanical environment (QSL, sine and acoustic environment)

  • Thermal qualification: thermal power, thermal control and instrument performances verification under TB/TV environment. It is to be mentioned that a specific defocus sequence was applied during this test to characterise the defocus model


HRS verification sequence


Verification results

Geometrical performances

After a characterization of reference frames transfer matrices, the alignment stabilities (geometrical performances) were trend during the instrument verification sequence (before and after mechanical and thermal environment).

The results, illustrated on Table3, highlighted excellent stability performances that allow for automatic data reduction at customer level.


Alignment stabilities verification

 Aft camera / optical refFore camera / optical refBetween cameras
After vibration< 85 μrad< 55 μrad< 125 μrad
After TB/TV< 115 μrad< 30 μrad< 85 μrad

Radiometric performances

After video chain calibration, mainly dedicated to gain and phase settings, the functional radiometric behaviour was first measured, especially:

  • CCD offset correction

  • Video chain behaviour in case a instrument detector saturation

  • Recovery period (less than one CCD line) when switching from one camera to the other one or when changing the gain of the video chain

Then, the radiometric coefficients (equalization and dark coefficients) necessary to compensate for telescope and detection chain non-uniformity were characterized and delivered to the customer. Finally, the radiometric performances measured at ambient and under vacuum, exhibited excellent results in all domains.


Radiometric performances verification results

DispersionGlobal< 15 %< 5 %
Local< 8 %< 2 %
NoiseS/N @ L2> 120> 180
LinearityRelative @ G3< 2 %< 1 %

As illustrated on Fig.9, the noise under different brightness, main instrument radiometric performance, is well within the specifications


Noise versus brightness


HRS detection chain is linear over the large dynamic range (see Fig.10).

Fig. 10:

Relative linearity@ G3


Optical performances

Spectral response, straylight, polarisation, distortion and Modulation Transfer Function (MTF) are the main optical performances, which have driven the instrument design. Measured at ambient and under vacuum (especially MTF), these performances are illustrated on Table4.


Optical performances verification synthesis

Rejection< 0.1 %Rejection: transmission outside spectral range
Straylight< 10 %Worst case figure when light is rasante
Polarisation< 0.3 % 
Distortion< 15 μmWithout modelling correction
MTF> 0.19> 0.26Fore cameraAft camera

HRS mission and elevation accuracy are very dependent of instrument MTF performances. Therefore, during the instrument verification sequence, a specific attention was paid to this critical parameter that includes the MTF over the Field of View at best focus and the defocus performances. Although well within the specification for both cameras, a better MTF performance is observed on camera2 (Fig.12) compared to camera1 (Fig.11). This is only due to the dioptric telescope lenses alignment procedure, largely improved on the second camera to reduce the residual astigmatism. Therefore, complying with MTF requirement means a defocus stability of + 30 μm on camera 1 (fore camera) and + 45 μm on camera2 (aft camera).


Fore camera MTF over the Field of View



Aft camera MTF over the Field of View


So, it is clear that focus alignment and stability and, consequently the thermal control of the cameras, are key issues for the HRS mission performances. Therefore, large efforts were spent to master the defocus stability performance.

Thanks to optical simulations, a defocus modelling was first established:



Δfi: Initial focus adjustment @ 0°C

Sθo: Sensitivity to camera mean temperature

SGl: Sensitivity to camera longitudinal gradient

SθB: Sensitivity to baffle temperature

Sθhs: Sensitivity to heat sink of the observed scene

Sθhsw: Sensitivity to orbital variation of heat sink

θo: Camera mean temperature

Gl: Camera longitudinal gradient

θB: Baffle temperature

θhs: Heat sink of the observed scene

θhsw: Orbital variation of heat sink

Then, to correlate the model and predict flight performances, defocus sensitivity cases were introduced during TB/TV test. These specific technological cases performed on both cameras allowed estimating the model coefficients with defocus accuracy better than 4 μm over the whole campaign:


Referring to Fig. 11 and 12 and the estimated in-orbit defocus, [-15 μm; +11 μm] at 1σ and [-28 μm; +24 μm] at 2σ, the MTF performances at 2σ are:

  • Camera1: MTF > 0.19

  • Camera2: MTF > 0.26




HRS technological monitoring

After one year of successful mission in orbit, HRS instrument presents stable and excellent performances on observable parameters:

  • Voltage, current and power consumption

  • Temperatures

  • Estimated defocus

Voltage, current and power

In-orbit HRS voltages, currents and power consumptions, identical to predictions and on-ground measurements, exhibit stable behaviour, demonstrating the good health of the instrument


HRS power consumption on BNR/CU in imaging and stand-by modes



The in-orbit thermal control is performing as expected. The only unexpected behaviour concerns the CCD proximity electronics slightly hotter than predicted due to a higher satellite interface on –Xs side. Nevertheless this result has no performances impact.


In-orbit HRS electronics temperature (black) versus operational (white) and non-operational (grey) temperature ranges


As expected, no long-term thermal evolution is observed on cameras, the main contributor remaining the orbital environment:

  • Cameras:

    • Orbital temperature stability better than + 0.2 °C

    • Orbital gradient stability better than + 0.5 °C

  • CCD:

    • Orbital temperature stability better than + 0.8 °C


In-orbit telescope temperature



In-orbit telescope longitudinal gradient


In-orbit defocus estimation

Considering the correlated defocus model established during on-ground verification, the estimated in-orbit defocus, illustrated on Fig.17, is:


In-orbit HRS instrument estimated defocus

  • Camera1 (fore camera): [-4 μm; +16 μm]

  • Camera2 (aft camera): [-3 μm; +15 μm]

The orbital stability, better than expected (+ 7 μm compared to + 14 μm), can be explained by the inaccuracy of the defocus model heat sink coefficients estimation, inaccuracy due to the impossibility to simulate on-ground the real heat sink (thermal shroud and optical ground support equipment disturbing the representativity of the observed scene during TB/TV).

In-orbit MTF estimation

From the estimated in-orbit defocus, the worst-case MTF over the field of view is:

  • Camera 1: MTF higher than 0.22

  • Camera 2: MTF higher than 0.29

much better than the required 0.18 specification.

The analysis of the in-orbit MTF (Fig.18 and Fig.19) demonstrates the good focus adjustment. Indeed, The focus setting is found close to the optimum (-2 μm on fore camera and -6.5 μm on aft camera).


In-orbit MTF with actual and ideal defocus (fore camera)



In-orbit MTF with actual and ideal defocus (aft camera)


Over the 1.5-year in-orbit lifetime, all parameters are stable and exhibit excellent performances.


HRS Acquisition

Since May 2002 systematic HRS acquisition is planned over pre-determined area that are classified depending of strategic and commercial priorities. HRS resource is shared between defence and commercial requirements on the basis of the initial public private partnership risksharing scheme:

  • 48% defence

  • 52% commercial

Acquisition is being processed successfully and overall acquired area exceeds by a factor 3 the original budgets. Data validation is a several steps process:

  • Cloud coverage check quickly after acquisition, in order to reallocate satellite resource

  • Fine correlation verifications in order to qualify the stereo pairs and to archive them for further potential DEM generation.

Last September 2003, HRS acquisition resulted in 42000000 km2 of cloud free covered area and 35000000 km2 of correlated stereo pairs ready for DEM manufacturing.


September 2003 cloud free HRS acquisition (green)



September 2003 HRS correlated stereo pairs (blue)






Reference3D, the HRS Digital Elevation Model(DEM) commercial product, is produced under a co edition agreement between France’s Institut Géographique National (IGN) and Spot Image. It is a tilled product, complete geographical information source, made up of one-degree square tiles containing 7 geographically superposable layers:

  • A DEM layer

  • An ortho image layer

  • Seven “quality” layer including source data used for DEM and ortho image, quality indicators on those data, DEM masks and accuracy figures.


HRS DEM Performances(2)

Location performances resulting from heavy work of French space agency (CNES) and mapping agency (IGN), has been conducted on more than 20 test sites. Reference3D production process is based on three steps:

  • Registration of stereo pairs

  • Generation of a DEM by automatic correlation on the stereo pairs

  • Overall calculation of absolute site geometry by block triangulation

First level accuracy is mainly affected by orbital performances. Nevertheless, elevation accuracy (z) is already better than 15m for more than 90% of points.


Raw location performance

 Cross trackAlong trackz
Mean-0.7 m-3.7 m-5.6 m
Standard deviation18.7 m34.3 m7.4 m
90% threshold62.4 m14.5 m

Modelling of thermo elastic effect resulting from orbital position reduces significantly location dispersion. Block triangulation, most effective part of correction, increases planimetric accuracy by more than a factor 2 on planimetry and than a factor 3 on elevation accuracy.


Location performance after after thermo elastic effects modelling and correction and block triangulation

 Cross trackAlong trackz
Mean0.5 m0.5 m-0.7 m
Standard deviation6.4 m5.2 m2.6 m
90% threshold12.3 m4.0 m

Finally, elevation accuracy can still be improved, using elevation data of known points in the block triangulation process, that has sense as coastlines provide simple accurate potential points at zero elevation.


Location performance after block triangulation with Z control points

 Cross trackAlong trackz
Mean-0.3 m0,5 m0,0 m
Standard deviation7,2 m5,1 m0,7 m
90% threshold13,4 m1,2 m

This evaluation campaign and the continuous in orbit monitoring have confirmed that the Reference3D users needs are satisfied and somewhat exceeded. This will allow providing satellite data with high location performances all over the world avoiding necessary use of Geographical Control Points (GCP).



The HRS instrument, funded via an innovative private/public partnership, was developed in two years as originally planned with a mono model philosophy. The on-ground and in-orbit performances exceed the instrument requirements and satisfy the HRS mission.

Indeed, the HRS acquisition is today in advance with respect to the original acquisition plan and the DEM products exhibit outstanding performances after compensation (1 m compared to 10 m requirement).


HRS Digital Elevation Models (Vesuvio)



Vesuvio 3D view derived from SPOT5




The HRS mission success is the result of efforts spent to conduct the instrument development and then produce the Digital Elevation Models.

The authors wish to thank all people at CNES, ASTRIUM, SPOTIMAGE, IGN who contributed by their daily work to the success of this mission.



Laurent Maggiori, Christian Rouziès, Marc Bernard, “HRS: an enhanced mission capability for SPOT5”, AIAA, 2000Google Scholar


Reference3D location performance review and prospects ISPRS & EARSEL joint Workshop “High-Resolution Mapping from Space 2003”, Hanover, GermanyGoogle Scholar


Laurent Maggiori, Michel Duran, Gilles Planche, “HRS: a first assessment”, IAF, 2003Google Scholar

© (2017) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Gilles Planche, Gilles Planche, Christian Massol, Christian Massol, Laurent Maggiori, Laurent Maggiori, "HRS camera: a development and in-orbit success", Proc. SPIE 10568, International Conference on Space Optics — ICSO 2004, 105680K (21 November 2017); doi: 10.1117/12.2307977; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2307977


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