ESA and Airbus Defence and Space sign contract for new Copernicus Earth observation mission
The satellites will measure their distance to the oceans’ surfaces with an accuracy of a few centimetres and use this data to map it globally, repeating the cycle every 10 days. Observing changes in sea-surface height using such a high level of precision provides insights into global sea levels, the speed and direction of ocean currents, and ocean heat storage. The measurements made are vital for modelling the oceans and predicting rises in sea levels. This data will also be used increasingly for weather forecasts and storm surge warnings.
The Sentinel-6 mission is part of Copernicus, the European Earth observation programme, and is a continuation of the programme started in 1992 to collect satellite-based measurements of the oceans’ surfaces. Weighing around 1.3 tonnes, the Jason-CS/Sentinel-6 satellites will ensure that measurements are carried out on a continuous basis from the years 2020 and 2026 respectively, at an altitude of around 1,350 kilometres. Operations for the missions, each running for five and a half years, will be overseen and managed by EUMETSAT in Darmstadt, Germany. Development of the satellites will be based on the highly successful CryoSat programme.
“The Jason-CS/Sentinel-6 programme underscores Airbus Defence and Space’s outstanding expertise in the field of Earth observation satellites,” said Dr. Michael Menking, Head of Earth Observation, Navigation and Science at Space Systems, after the signature of the contract. “Reliable, high-performance satellites gather data about our ecosystem in a precise and sustainable way, providing politicians, scientists and other users with an important diagnostic and decision-making tool. “As the leader of five of the seven Copernicus missions, Airbus Defence and Space is the key industrial partner par excellence for satellite-based monitoring of the environment,” he said.
As with CryoSat, Airbus Defence and Space in Friedrichshafen will be the prime contractor for the space segment and lead the industry consortium on behalf of ESA. Thales Alenia Space France will construct the main instrument, a radar altimeter, whose predecessor is already being used on CryoSat-2, Jason-3 and Sentinel-3. Further instruments are being developed by NASA/JPL in the USA. The American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is also a partner of Sentinel-6/Jason-CS.
About Airbus Defence and Space
Airbus Defence and Space is a division of Airbus Group formed by combining the business activities of Cassidian, Astrium and Airbus Military. The new division is Europe’s number one defence and space enterprise, the second largest space business worldwide and among the top ten global defence enterprises. It employs more than 38,000 employees generating revenues of approximately €13 billion per year.
Source: By Airbus Group – 11 May 2015