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Contract signed for new Copernicus ROSE-L mission

(3 December 2020 - ESA) ESA and Thales Alenia Space have today signed a contract to develop the new high-priority Copernicus Radar Observation System for Europe in L-band (ROSE-L) environmental monitoring mission – as part of Europe’s Copernicus programme.

The contract was signed in the presence of Riccardo Fraccaro, Undersecretary of the Italian Prime Minister’s Office, and ESA’s Director General, Jan Wörner.

With launch planned in 2028, ROSE-L will provide continuous day-and-night all-weather monitoring of Earth’s land, oceans and ice, and offer frequent images at a high spatial resolution.

During its 7.5-year lifetime, the ROSE-L mission will realise new information that cannot be gathered by existing satellites or through other means. ROSE-L will deliver essential information on forests and land cover, leading to improved monitoring of the terrestrial carbon cycle and carbon accounting.

The mission will also greatly extend our ability to monitor minute surface displacements and helping detect geohazards. It will automatically map surface soil moisture conditions and monitor sea and land ice, greatly helping climate change research and mitigation.

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Radar Observation System for Europe in L-band (ROSE-L) (courtesy: Thales Alenia Space)

From its 690 km polar orbit, ROSE-L will carry an active phased array synthetic aperture radar instrument. The radar antenna will be the largest planar antenna ever built measuring an impressive 11 metres by 3.6 metres – roughly the size of 10 ping-pong tables.

With a contract secured worth €482 million, Thales Alenia Space in Italy is the prime contractor for the mission, with Airbus Defence and Space in Germany responsible for the radar instrument. The industrial team includes 29 companies (including 15 SME’s) from 15 countries.

ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Josef Aschbacher, said, “I am extremely glad to sign the ROSE-L contract today. ROSE-L will not only complement the radar capabilities of the current Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission, but will also provide a new set of measurements of vegetation, ice and ocean parameters. It will be a key satellite mission to better understand climate change and simulate its impact on humankind.”

The European Commission’s Director-General for Defence Industry and Space, Timo Pesonen, commented, “We are happy to see the signature of the ROSE-L contract today. Its features are expected to respond to several needs we have identified in particular in land management and in ocean monitoring. We look forward to welcoming ROSE-L in the Copernicus Constellation.”

The contract for ROSE-L is the last of the six new high-priority candidate missions to be signed. The six Copernicus high-priority Sentinel Expansion missions are planned to complement the current capabilities of the Sentinels and address EU policy priorities and gaps in Copernicus user needs.

The European Copernicus flagship programme provides Earth observation and in situ data, as well as a broad range of services for environmental monitoring and protection, climate monitoring and natural disaster assessment to improve the quality of life of European citizens.

Copernicus is the biggest provider of Earth observation data in the world – and while the EU is at the helm of this environmental monitoring programme, ESA develops, builds and launches the dedicated satellites. It also operates some of the missions and ensures the availability of data from third party missions.