Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Thales Alenia Space to Build Sentinel-1 Satellites

In the back, Roberto Battiston, President of  the Italian Space Agency (ASI) on the left, Mauro Facchini, Head of the Copernicus Services Unit of the European Commission (right), Donato Amoroso, CEO of Thales Alenia Italy and Volker Liebig, ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programmes at the signing ceremony for the new contract of Sentinel-1C & -1D units. Credit: M. Iacobucci

Thales Alenia Space announced Tuesday that it has signed a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) to build the Copernicus Sentinel-1C and 1D environmental monitoring satellites, as part of Europe's Copernicus program. Thales Alenia Space Italy was once again named prime contractor for these new satellites, as for Sentinel-1A and 1B. It is responsible for the design, development and integration of Copernicus the Sentinel-1C and 1D satellites, which will feature a C-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR), as well as advanced data management and transmission systems and onboard computer.

Thales Alenia Space will supply the transmission/reception (T/R) modules and the front-end electronics, the heart of the C-band SAR antenna, which will be manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space to Thales Alenia Space's specifications.

The Copernicus Sentinel-1C and 1D satellites, to be launched as from 2021, are part of the vast Copernicus environmental monitoring and management program coordinated by the European Commission, with ESA in charge of the space segment. The Copernicus program is designed to guarantee European independence in the collection and management of data on our planet, and to support Europe's public environmental policies.

The Copernicus Sentinel-1C and D satellites will be built on the Prima platform developed by Thales Alenia Space on behalf of the Italian space agency. They will each weigh about 2,300 kilograms at launch, and will be positioned at an altitude of 700 kilometers, offering a ground resolution of 5 to 25 meters, depending on the operating mode selected.

"We are very proud to have won this major contract, since it confirms Thales Alenia Space Italy’s long-standing expertise in the construction of Earth observation satellites based on radar technology," said Donato Amoroso, Managing Director of Thales Alenia Space Italy and Deputy CEO of Thales Alenia Space. “Our selection also shows that we have the capabilities needed to meet this program's technological challenges, while contributing to Europe's environmental strategy now and in the future."

Sentinel-1 over Italy. Credit: ESA/DLR
Sentinel-1 over Italy. Credit: ESA/DLR

Italy plays a major role in the Copernicus program, largely through the Italian space agency ASI. The country's role reflects the excellent performance of the COSMO-SkyMed program, which demonstrated the Italian space agency’s vision and the Italian space industry's cutting-edge expertise. 

The main goals of the Sentinel-1 mission are: mapping of urban areas and environmental impacts, monitoring of risks caused by movements of the Earth’s surface, surveillance of the marine environment, maritime security, monitoring of sea ice, forests and climate change, fast response to emergency services.

Volker Liebig, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, said at the signing: “The radar satellites Sentinel-1 C and -1D will extend the operational monitoring component of Copernicus at least until the end of 2030. This is crucial for many operational and governmental applications but also for growing private sector applications."

ESA's Sentinel program include six families of satellites, each equipped with instruments dedicated to their specific remote sensing mission. Sentinel-1 will ensure continuity with data gathered by the ERS and Envisat radar satellites. The Sentinel-1A satellite, launched in April 2014, is now fully operational, while its twin, Sentinel-1B, scheduled for launch in the spring of 2016, is undergoing final testing at the Thales Alenia Space plant in Cannes.

Credit: thalesgroup.comESA

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