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Thales Alenia Space to build Copernicus CIMR satellites

(13 November 2020 - Thales) Thales Alenia Space has signed a 93 Meuro, first tranche of the 495 Meuro global contract, with the European Space Agency (ESA) to build the Copernicus Imaging Microwave Radiometer (CIMR) environmental monitoring satellites.

The CIMR mission is part of the expansion of the Copernicus Space Component programme of the European Space Agency, ESA, in partnership with the European Commission. The European Copernicus flagship programme provides Earth observation and in situ data and a broad range of services for environmental monitoring and protection, climate monitoring, natural disaster assessment to improve the quality of life of European citizens.

Thales Alenia Space will serve as mission prime with main partners OHB Italia for the instrument and HPS (High Performance Space Structure System GmbH) for the Antenna Reflector. This mission is dedicated to provide observations of Sea-Surface Temperature (SST), Sea-Ice Concentration (SIC) and Sea-Surface Salinity (SSS). Uniquely, it would also observe a wide range of other sea-ice parameters as Sea Ice Thickness (SIT), Sea Ice Drift (SID), Ice Type/Stage, Snow Depth on Sea Ice or Ice Surface Temperature (IST). CIMR responds to high-priority requirements from key Arctic user communities and will improve continuity of missions monitoring the Polar Regions, notably in terms of spatial resolution (~5 km) temporal resolution (sub-daily) and geophysical accuracy. CIMR measurement performances are at worldwide state of art.

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(courtesy: Thales Alenia Space/Briot)

“Our strong expertise and heritage on both Copernicus programs and radar technologies will serve this mission which is considered essential to the successful implementation of the integrated EU Artic Policy”, declared Hervé Derrey, CEO of Thales Alenia Space.

The CIMR system consists of up to 3 Satellites dedicated to day-and-night monitoring of land, ice and oceans flying in loose convoy with METOP SG satellite B. CIMR orbit is quasi-polar, near circular and sun-synchronous. In order to acquire measurements on a wide swath, the instrument rotates continuously about an axis parallel to the local spacecraft vertical. The antenna system view the Earth scene with a nearly constant incidence angle of about 55.5 deg.

The CIMR satellites embark each a wide-swath conically-scanning multi-frequency microwave radiometer provided by OHB Italia and operating from L to ka band enabling radiometric measurements with unprecedented levels of accuracy. CIMR will be designed for a 7 years nominal lifetime with a sub-daily Artic and Antarctic area coverage, it will be compatible with Vega-C and Ariane 6-2 launchers and will be fitted by a controlled re-entry system.

Massimo Comparini, Senior Executive Vice President Observation, Exploration and Navigation at Thales Alenia Space commented: “We are proud to lead this crucial mission for Europe and for arctic communities, as CIMR will provide operational sea-ice services and continuously monitoring of Arctic environment”.

This program will take both advantage of Thales Alenia Space proven heritage in Copernicus missions, Earth observation satellites as well as the OHB Italia experience on rotating microwave imager, the platform is based on the new Thales Alenia Space Multi-Mission Platform product line (MILA),and the Large Deployable Reflector (LDRS) will be provided by the German company HPS.

More about industrial contributions

Thales Alenia Space in Belgium will provide the Power Control-Distribution Unit and the Solar Array Photovoltaic Assembly (PVA), Thales Alenia Space in Switzreland the monitoring camera, Thales Alenia Space in Spain, the Receivers and Calibration Assembly (RCA) , the Instrument Control Unit (ICU), the Local Control Unit (LCU) and the Remote Interface Unit (RIU) and Leonardo the Star Trackers.

About the integrated EU Artic Policy

The strategic, environmental and socio-economic importance of the Arctic region, including the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas is now recognized. The Arctic’s fragile environment is also a direct and key indicator of the climate change, which requires specific mitigation and adaptation actions, as agreed at the COP -21 held in Paris in December 2015.

To this end, the "Integrated EU Arctic policy" has identified and is addressing three priority areas

  • Climate Change and Safeguarding the Arctic Environment (livelihoods of indigenous peoples, Arctic environment).
  • Sustainable Development in and around the Arctic (exploitation of natural resources e.g. fish, minerals, oil and gas), “Blue economy”, safe and reliable navigation (e.g. the Arctic Northern Sea Route).
  • International Cooperation on Arctic Issues (scientific research, EU and bilateral cooperation projects, fisheries management/ecosystems protection, commercial fishing).

Continuously monitoring the vast and harsh Arctic environment in such a changing world with Earth observation, navigation and communication satellites (considering the sparse population and the lack of transport links) is considered essential to the successful implementation and effective management of the Integrated EU Arctic Policy.

About CIRM measured parameters

  • Sea-Surface Temperature parameter is required for climate modelling, mesoscale analysis, oceanic predictions and as climate change indicator
  • Sea-Ice Concentration is the most important parameter for operational navigation in sea-ice infested waters and for climate services
  • Sea-Surface Salinity is an essential climate variable that plays a fundamental role in the density-driven global ocean circulation, the water cycle, and climate
  • Sea Ice Thickness is a parameter already measured by satellite altimeters but a high spatial resolution thin sea ice thickness product for navigation purposes does not exist for the Arctic Ocean and will be crucial for operational applications
  • Sea Ice Drift parameters are not only important for the navigation but ice cover and motion have major effect on heat fluxes between ocean and atmosphere, as well as impact the fresh water flux which plays an important role in the thermohaline circulation
  • Ice Type/Stage is also a key parameter to operational services (navigation, marine operations) as well as to climate modelling Snow Depth on Sea Ice are needed for an accurate determination of the sea ice freeboard
  • Ice Surface Temperature parameter is potentially as important than SST in terms of assimilation of vertical heat diffusion

About Thales Alenia Space

Drawing on over 40 years of experience and a unique combination of skills, expertise and cultures, Thales Alenia Space delivers cost-effective solutions for telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, environmental management, exploration, science and orbital infrastructures. Governments and private industry alike count on Thales Alenia Space to design satellite-based systems that provide anytime, anywhere connections and positioning, monitor our planet, enhance management of its resources, and explore our Solar System and beyond. Thales Alenia Space sees space as a new horizon, helping to build a better, more sustainable life on Earth. A joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), Thales Alenia Space also teams up with Telespazio to form the parent companies’ Space Alliance, which offers a complete range of services. Thales Alenia Space posted consolidated revenues of approximately 2.15 billion euros in 2019 and has around 7,700 employees in nine countries.