Dec 05, 2014

Airbus Defence and Space selected as prime contractor by ESA for new Earth observation mission.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected Airbus Defence and Space, the world’s second largest space company, as the prime contractor to develop and construct the first Jason-CS/Sentinel-6 satellite. Jason-CS/Sentinel-6 is a mission to carry out high-precision measurements of ocean surface topography.

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New Copernicus satellite to look at ocean surface topography
Jason-CS/Sentinel-6 scheduled for launch in 2020

The satellite will measure its distance to the ocean surface with an accuracy of a few centimetres and use this data to map the topography globally, repeating the cycle every ten days. Observing changes in sea-surface height using such a high level of accuracy 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.

The Sentinel-6 mission is part of the European Earth observation programme Copernicus, and is a continuation of a programme of global ocean-surface measurements made by satellites that began in 1992. Weighing around 1 tonne and flying at an altitude of around 1,300 kilometres, the Jason-CS/Sentinel-6 satellite will ensure that measurements are carried out on a continuous basis from 2020. The satellite is designed to orbit for five and a half years, and operations will be overseen and managed by EUMETSAT in Darmstadt, Germany. Development of the satellite will be based on the highly successful CryoSat programme.

“For this project we will rely not only upon the proven and efficient designs and processes applied to numerous Earth observation missions, but also, of course, upon the experienced Cryosat team of experts,” said François Auque, Head of Space Systems.

As with CryoSat, Airbus Defence and Space in Friedrichshafen will be the prime contractor for the space segment and heads 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. Further instruments are being constructed by NASA/JPL in the USA and provided by the American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the Jason-CS/Sentinel-6 mission.

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