Astrium selected for MicroWave Sounder instruments for MetOp Second Generation satellites

16 July 2013

  • European Space Agency selects Astrium in the UK for MicroWave Sounder (MWS) instruments for next generation EUMETSAT weather satellites
  • MWS builds on success of MicroWave Humidity Sounder instruments flying successfully on current MetOp satellites
  • Contract worth up to €155.5 million for three flight model instruments

Astrium, Europe’s leading space technology company, has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) to supply the MicroWave Sounder (MWS) instruments for the MetOp Second Generation series of satellites (MetOp-SG). The contract for the MWS instruments, worth up to €155.5 million, has been awarded to Astrium 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 Astrium 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) forecasts enabling short term weather forecasts to be made with greater accuracy.

There will be a minimum of two MWS instruments, each with a mission life of 7.5 years. A team of 40 at Astrium in Portsmouth will develop the MWS instruments together with 15 major sub-contractors across UK and Europe. In the UK key contributions to the programme will also be made by SEA Ltd, STFC/RAL, JCR Systems Ltd and Queens University in Belfast together with other opportunities for UK companies to bid to provide equipment/services. ESA has the option of ordering a third instrument, to ensure that the MWS instruments will provide accurate forecasting data until 2040 and beyond. The first MetOp SG satellite is due to be launched in 2021.

Astrium UK Managing Director, Colin Paynter, said: “This contract is a direct result of the government increasing its ambition in space which has allowed our great innovation and engineering talent to have a route to market. It builds on Astrium’s proven expertise in meteorological and space-borne instruments, and is great news for the UK team. The unique experience built up in developing and manufacturing the microwave instruments for the current MetOp satellites firmly put Portsmouth as one of the world leaders in this area.”

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts, said: “This substantial contract shows that the UK’s increased investment in the European Space Agency is already paying dividends and getting us ahead in the global race and the space race. It confirms our space industry’s world-class position and will see Astrium working with other leading businesses, scientists and engineers to develop cutting edge satellite technology.”

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 faultless mission operation 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.

In addition to the MHS sounders in orbit on the current MetOp satellites, several other instruments were procured by Astrium and largely built at its sites across Europe. They include the Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT), a radar system that measures wind speed and direction above the surface of the oceans, and the Global Navigation Satellite System Receiver for Atmospheric Sounding (GRAS), a GPS receiver that supplies atmospheric sounding data.

About Astrium

Together, pioneering excellence

Astrium is the number one company in Europe for space technologies and the third in the world. It is the only global company that covers the full range of civil and defence space systems, equipment and services.

In 2012, Astrium had a turnover over €5.8 billion and 18,000 employees worldwide.

Its three business units are: Astrium Space Transportation, the European prime contractor for launchers, orbital systems and space exploration; Astrium Satellites, a leading provider of satellite system solutions, including spacecraft, ground segments, payloads and equipments; Astrium Services, the Space services partner for critical missions, providing comprehensive fixed and mobile solutions covering secure and commercial satcoms and networks, and bespoke geo-information services, worldwide.

Astrium is a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2012, the Group – comprising Airbus, Astrium, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of €56.5 billion and employed a workforce of over 140,000.

Press contacts:

Jeremy Close
Media Relations UK
Astrium United Kingdom
Tel.: +44 1 438 77 3872
Gregory Gavroy
Astrium France
Media Relations France
Tel.: +33 (0) 1 77 75 80 32
Ralph Heinrich
Media Relations Germany
Airbus Defence and Space Germany
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Francisco Lechon
Media Relations Spain
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Tel.: +34 91 5 86 37 41
Fax: +34 91 5 86 37 82


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