[Satellite TODAY Insider 12-09-11] The European Space Agency (ESA) has named Astrium’s United Kingdom division its prime contractor for the Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite (S5p), which will engage in an Earth observation mission to monitor atmospheric chemistry. The agreement, announced Dec. 8, is worth 45.5 million euros ($60.5 million).
The S5p project falls under ESA’s Global Monitoring for Environment and Security program (GMES) joint undertaking with the European Commission (EC). Astrium will lead a team to design S5p as a high-performance, single satellite. The goal of the design will be to lower mission costs, while providing technology that will help ESA bridge the observation gap when its current satellites, ENVISAT and ERS-2, reach the end of their operations.
S5p is scheduled to launch in early 2015 and will operate through 2022. The satellite will fly as a MetOp Second Generation satellite in a polar orbit. Astrium said that S5p would maintain the continuity of science data before the Sentinel-5 instrument becomes operational towards the end of 2019.
The satellite will contain a tropospheric monitoring instrument instrument that was co-developed by Astrium’s subsidiary Dutch Space for ESA and the Netherlands Space Office. The instrument will aim to take measurements of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and other atmospheric pollutants at a higher resolution than existing instruments.
In a statement, Head of Astrium U.K, Colin Paynter said that having more accurate atmospheric data will enable ESA to improve climate models and weather forecasting. “The Sentinel-5 precursor mission is fantastic news for Astrium. Not only is it the first ESA prime contract won by Astrium in the United Kingdom in seven years, it is also the first low cost satellite program in ESA’s current GMES. The mission will ensure that Europe retains the ability to monitor atmospheric pollutants before the Sentinel-5 instrument becomes operational.”