Thales Alenia Space Inks Record-Breaking $1.8 Billion Six-Satellite Eumetsat Deal

[Satellite News 02-24-12] Thales Alenia Space has won the largest satellite construction contract in history to produce six Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) satellites for the European meteorological satellite organization (Eumetsat), the company confirmed Feb. 24.

   The European Space Agency (ESA) is paying 62 percent of the total $1.8 billion value after adjusting for inflation dating back to exchange rates in 2008. Eumetsat will pay the remaining 38 percent of the satellite contract and more than two-thirds of the entire MTG program, which has been budgeted at about 2.4 billion euros ($3.21 billion).
   The MTG program comprises of six satellites: four MTG-1 imaging spacecraft and two MTG-S sounding satellites. The imaging satellites will operate in 16 bandwidths, including Ka-band, to determine temperature and humidity profiles in a vertical section of the atmosphere. The satellites also will carry an extra ultraviolet sounding instrument within the scope of Europe’s Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security (GMES) program to analyze the constituent gases in the atmosphere. All six satellites will use a Small-Geo multifunction platform under development by German company OHB System.
   Thales Alenia Space will act as prime contractor for the large-scale program in partnership with OHB. The first phase of the program started in November 2010. Thales Alenia Space and OHB have yet to sign about 30 percent of the total contract value with subcontractors.
   Thales Alenia Space President and CEO Reynald Seznec said the third-generation Meteosat satellites would considerably improve the quality and reliability of meteorological models and weather forecasts. 
   “I am very proud and very honored to sign the contract for the Meteosat Third Generation program here at ESA, along with Eumetsat, CNES and Météo France, and our German partners OHB and KT, with whom we form the core team,” Seznec said in a statement. “This contract is the culmination of a long industrial optimization approach, starting with the request for proposals. We are now enthusiastically looking forward to this exciting challenge, and once again demonstrating the excellence of the European space industry by delivering our accustomed world-class performance in geostationary orbit meteorology.”
   ESA and Eumetsat officials said they issued a request for proposals for the development of the third-generation satellites, and Thales Alenia Space was able to, “propose industrial partnerships meeting ESA’s geographical return rule, from both the qualitative and quantitative standpoints. The Thales Alenia Space’s proposal not only delivers the performance expected by users, but also underpins the development of innovative solutions and ensures competitive prices,” according to a co-signed statement.
   The deal puts the MTG program on track to validate the detailed design and Preliminary Design Reviews (PDR) for the system, instruments and platform by the end of the year. The deal also puts an end to a heated battle between Germany and France regarding the program’s leadership.
   ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain said the agency felt enormous pressure in acting as a neutral arbitrator between the two equal-share nations. “We demonstrated that ESA was able to stay the course and bring the negotiations to a conclusion on the basis of value for money,” Dordain said in a statement. “It was more important for the winning team to bring the project in on budget and on schedule. Any cost overruns would be especially catastrophic. It would open room for critics to say we had selected the wrong team.”

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