Europe's leading space company, Astrium, has been commissioned by the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop and build the EarthCARE Earth observation satellite. The contract worth € 263 million was signed in Berlin, coinciding with the International Aerospace Exhibition (ILA) by Volker Liebig, ESA's director of earth observation, Evert Dudok, CEO of Astrium Satellites and Uwe Minne, director of earth observation and science at Astrium (Friedrichshafen, Germany), in the presence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, ESA director general Jean-Jacques Dordain and head of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) Johann-Dietrich Wörner.
EarthCARE (Earth Clouds, Aerosols and Radiation Explorer) will focus on clouds, tiny particles in the atmosphere - aerosols - and their influence on atmospheric radiation. Among other things, EarthCARE will draw up vertical profiles of natural and man-made aerosols, register the distribution of water and ice and their transport by clouds, and investigate the interrelationships between clouds and precipitation and their effects on radiation. It will be possible to derive profiles of atmospheric heating and cooling by clouds from a combination of the measured aerosols and "cloud elements".
"The role of aerosols in cloud formation and the interaction with radiation is not completely understood by science but plays an important role in climate and weather modelling. This is why the EarthCARE proposal was selected" said ESA's Earth Observation Director Dr. Volker Liebig.
EarthCARE will thus contribute to a better understanding of our climate and deliver valuable data for the numerical forecasting models of climate researchers and meteorologists. Weighing around 1.7 metric tons, the satellite is scheduled to lift off into space in September 2013. EarthCARE will spend three years taking measurements from a polar orbit (97° inclination) at an altitude of about 400 kilometres.
"By offering an innovative and future-oriented range of products, Astrium is helping to achieve a better understanding of Earth's sensitively balanced ecosystem and encourage people to treat it with greater care," said Astrium Satellites CEO Evert Dudok to journalists in Berlin. "The experience and know-how gained from projects such as EarthCARE or the recently awarded contracts for the Sentinel family of satellites and the polar-orbiting weather satellite Metop give us an excellent basis and serve as a reference for future tasks such as the third generation of Meteosat satellites."
Astrium (Friedrichshafen, Germany) will be responsible for the industrial management of EarthCARE and the integration and test activities. The satellite is equipped with four instruments, two passive and two active sensors that will supply a unique data package with only one satellite mission. Astrium (Toulouse, France) will supply the active laser instrument ATLID, while the platform (Astrium), the Multi-Spectral Imager MSI (SSTL) and the Broadband Radiometer BBR (SEA) are being produced in the UK. The fourth instrument is the Cloud Profiling Radar CPR, which will be supplied by the Japanese Space Agency, JAXA.
EarthCARE is the sixth Earth Explorer mission to be launched by ESA as part of its "Living Planet" Earth exploration programme. It is being implemented jointly with the Japanese space agency JAXA. Astrium is the prime industrial contractor.
Astrium also plays an important part in the other satellites for Earth Explorer missions that are currently under construction. Astrium (Friedrichshafen) is prime contractor for the ice investigation satellite Cryosat-2 and the three-satellite Swarm mission to investigate the Earth's magnetic field. It is also supplying the platform for the Goce mission to measure the Earth's gravitational field. Astrium UK is the prime contractor for the ADM-Aeolus wind mission, for which Astrium France is developing the Aladin instrument. Astrium Spain is developing and building the Miras payload for the SMOS mission to study soil moisture and ocean salinity.
Astrium, a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, is focused on providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2007, Astrium had a turnover of €3.5 billion.Its three main areas of activity are Astrium Space Transportation for launchers and orbital infrastructure, and Astrium Satellites for spacecraft and ground segment, and its wholly owned subsidiary Astrium Services for the development and delivery of satellite services.
EADS is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2007, EADS generated revenues of €39.1 billion and employed a workforce of more than 116,000.