SSTL Wins Satellite Imager Contract For Climate Modelling

Earth Explorer Missions are part of the Earth Observation Envelope Programme (EOEP). They are missions led by the European Space Agency to address primary research objectives. The EarthCARE Mission has been approved for implementation as the third Earth Explorer Core Mission. The mission will be implemented in collaboration with Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency who will provide one of the core Instruments. The EarthCARE mission has been specifically defined with the basic objective of improving the understanding of cloud-aerosol-radiation interactions so as to include them correctly and reliably in climate and numerical weather prediction models.

The EarthCARE mission aims to improve the understanding of the Earth’s radiation balance and to minimise uncertainties in climate change prediction models by acquiring accurate vertical profiles of clouds and aerosols, as well as measurements of top of the atmosphere radiance. The Multi Spectral Imager produced by SSTL will provide information on the horizontal structures of clouds, such as cloud type and cover, and cloud optical and microphysical properties. The instrument’s 150 km swath will be used to extend to three dimensions the validity of the aerosol, cloud and radiance measurements made by the active EarthCARE instruments which are all directed towards the satellite ground track.

This contract is for the first stage of the Phase B design study; the full Phase B is a 15 month programme. This will be followed by a Phase C/D leading to mission launch in 2013. SSTL is supported in the MSI programme by TNO from The Netherlands who are acting as subcontractors to SSTL.

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) develops innovative technologies to change the economics of space, delivering cost effective satellite missions within rapid timescales. The Company is a world leader in the design, manufacture and operation of high performance small satellites with experience gained over more than 25 years and 27 missions launched.

SSTL employs almost 300 staff working on LEO, MEO, GEO and interplanetary missions, turnkey satellite platforms and space-proven satellite subsystems and optical systems. The Company also provides know-how transfer and training programmes and consultancy services, and performs studies for ESA, NASA and commercial customers related to platform design, mission analysis and planning.

Based in Guildford, UK, SSTL is owned by the University of Surrey (85%), SSTL staff (5%), and SpaceX of the USA (10%).

The imaging system that is being developed by SSTL has seven spectral channels from the visible to thermal infrared. Its role in the mission will be to provide geographical coverage of aerosol and cloud optical property retrievals and to supply context information for data from the two active instruments – a cloud profiling radar and a Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) system.

TNO (Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, abbreviated name: TNO)is a knowledge organisation for companies, government bodies and public organisations. The daily work of some 5,000 employees is to develop and apply knowledge. It provides contract research and specialist consultancy as well as granting licences for patents and specialist software. It tests and certifies products and services, and issues an independent evaluation of quality. And it sets up new companies to market innovations active in five core areas: TNO Quality of Life, TNO Defence, Security and Safety, TNO Science and Industry, TNO Built Environment and Geosciences, TNO Information and Communication Technology.

(source: SSTL)

Author: EARSC

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