Dec 11, 2014

Airbus Defence and Space signs contract for Microwave Sounder instruments

Airbus Defence and Space, the world’s second largest space company, has signed a contract to build three MicroWave Sounder (MWS) instruments for the MetOp Second Generation series of satellites (MetOp-SG).

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The contract for the MWS instruments, worth up to euro 155.5 million, has been awarded to Airbus in the UK and the satellites will be operated by EUMETSAT, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites.

The MWS instrument is the follow on to the highly successful MicroWave Humidity Sounder (MHS), also primed from Airbus in Portsmouth and currently flying on the first generation MetOp missions. The new generation of instruments will provide a much higher level of performance over a greater spectral range. The instrument delivers atmospheric temperature and water vapour information for use in Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) models enabling short term weather forecasts to be made with greater accuracy.

Three MWS instruments will be built, each with a mission life of 7.5 years, one instrument will fly on each of the MetOp-SG A satellites ensuring accurate forecasting data until 2040 and beyond. The first MetOp-SG satellite is due to be launched in 2021. The team at Airbus in Portsmouth will develop the MWS instruments together with 20 major sub-contractors across UK and Europe.

Airbus Defence and Space UK Managing Director, Colin Paynter said: “This contract is great news for the Portsmouth team and builds on our proven expertise in meteorological and space-borne instruments, as well as our world leading innovative technology on satellite payloads.”

Greg Clark, Minister for Universities, Science and Cities said: “This is a fantastic example of UK expertise in the development of world leading innovative satellite technologies and services. With a Pounds 32m investment from the UK Space Agency this deal will help to create jobs and real return for the UK space sector and enable the MetOffice to provide precise weather forecasting.”

There are currently four MHS instruments in orbit, on the European MetOp satellites and the US NOAA meteorological satellites. The first instrument was launched in 2005. Altogether they have accumulated 17 years of mission operations across the four instruments. A fifth MHS instrument is in long term storage and will be launched on the third and final MetOp satellite in 2018.