CNES projects library

December 27, 2023


Argos is a satellite-based location and data collection system designed for environmental monitoring and wildlife tracking. Created in 1978, it operates ground-based transmitters in permanent radio contact with spaceborne instruments.

Gauging variations in ocean temperature, currents and salinity, monitoring volcanic activity, measuring changes in Arctic sea ice, tracking wildlife migration and helping to manage shipping are just some of the applications supported by the Argos spaceborne location and data collection system, named after the 100-eyed Greek mythological giant Argus (Argos in French). The Argos system consists of radiotransmitters fitted on anything that needs to be tracked, from a boat or buoy to an animal, bird, cetacean, turtle or even a mountain peak. These radiotransmitters emit signals received by Argos instruments orbiting Earth on several satellites. The signals are recorded and then downlinked to a processing centre.

Instigated in 1978 by CNES and the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Argos is today operated worldwide by Kineis (created in 2018), a subsidiary of CNES and CLS (Collecte Localisation Satellites). CNES is the Argos system architect and oversees development of its ground and space components. The spaceborne Argos instruments are built by Thales Airborne Systems (TAS).

Since 1978, there have been three generations of Argos instruments, launched on satellites operated by CNES’s partners: NOAA, and subsequently Eumetsat and ISRO, which both joined the programme in 2007. Fourth-generation Argos instruments are in service since October/November 2022. At the same time, CNES is also investing in the future and has developed a demonstrator called Argos-Neo, a miniaturized instrument built around commercial-off-the-shelf macro-components from the telecommunications market that is flying on the ANGELS nanosatellite launched on 18 December 2019.

The future of Argos is now in the hands of Kineis*, a French firm in charge of developing and operating a new constellation of satellites to extend the location and data collection service currently provided by the system. This constellation will consist of 25 nanosatellites in sun-synchronous orbit (SSO), in five orbital planes with five satellites per plane, each carrying an Argos-Neo payload and with its own ground segment. Launches will start in 2024, with the first five satellites scheduled to be orbited in the first quarter of the year. Kineis will also continue to operate the Argos-2, 3 and 4 instruments aboard the system’s longstanding partner satellites, as well as Argos-Neo on the ANGELS nanosatellite.

* Kineis is a French nanosatellite constellation project to deliver services for the Internet of Things (IoT).