“Icy Mission” for Cryosat-2
Ottobrunn.– Astrium announced today that CryoSat-2, the new research satellite is ready to perform its icy mission. The satellite will investigate whether, and to what extent, the Earth’s polar ice caps are changing.
* Astrium-built research satellite ready for launch
* Astrium has proven the satellite is “space qualified”
* The satellite will provide data on ice coverage in 3D
François Auque, CEO of Astrium, Europe’s largest space company, is a keen supporter of the mission: “For the first time a European satellite built by Astrium will provide accurate data on the volume of ice coverage. It will give scientists a global overview and enable them to compile a detailed picture on how and where the ice is melting. It is an important advance in the assessment of climate change and demonstrates how industrial technologies benefit everyone on Earth.”
Astrium is the prime contractor for CryoSat-2 with responsibility for an industrial consortium consisting of approximately 31 companies from 17 countries including Thales Alenia Space for the SIRAL instrument. Astrium in Friedrichshafen built the satellite platform and integrated all the instruments. Astrium is also responsible to ESA for the reliability of the whole satellite. The industrial contract volume is valued at approximately €75 million.
CryoSat-2, completed in September 2009, has now reached another milestone on its way to space. In a test campaign conducted at IABG for Astrium which lasted for several months, Astrium has proved that the satellite is “space qualified” and ready for use in space. In December of this year, CryoSat-2 will be transported to the Russian Space Centre in Baikonur (Kazakhstan) to be launched for its icy mission in early 2010.
CryoSat is intended mainly to measure the polar ice sheets and the sea-ice cover which together greatly affect the radiation balance on Earth. If the ice caps on Greenland and Antarctica melt significantly, the runoff could cause changes to the great ocean currents with unforeseen consequences for the world’s climate.
For at least three and a half years, CryoSat will measure the ice coverage at the Earth’s poles with previously unattained precision. The satellite will be able to precisely measure the sea-ice thickness and with the help of its two radar antennas, the changes at the land-ice margins. In addition, the radar satellite data will help determine the connection between the melting of the polar ice caps and the rise in sea levels.
Astrium and ESA’s “Living Planet” Earth research programme
CryoSat is a so-called Earth-Explorer mission within ESA’s “Living Planet” Earth research programme and the first radar mission specifically investigating the polar ice masses. Astrium is also involved in other Earth Explorer satellite missions. It is the prime contractor for the EarthCARE Earth observation satellite which is currently being built and for the three-satellite Swarm mission for investigating the Earth’s magnetic field. Furthermore, Astrium supplied the platform for GOCE which has been successfully “surfing” the Earth’s gravitational field since March 2009. Astrium is also the prime contractor for the ADM-Aeolus wind mission for which it is responsible for developing the Aladin instrument. Additionally, Astrium has developed and built the Miras payload for the SMOS mission for the observation of soil moisture and salinity over the oceans. From spring 2010, CryoSat-2 will be the third Earth Explorer in space together with GOCE (2009) and the SMOS mission which is due to be launched in November this year.
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