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ESA's new Arctic Weather Satellite flies with a power system by RUAG Space

(5 May 2021 - RUAG Space) RUAG Space has been awarded the contract to provide the power system for the prototype of the Arctic Weather Satellite’s (AWS) radiometer instrument. The mission’s goal: to enable precise, short-term weather forecasts also in the Arctic. The contract includes an option for 16 additional flight models for the planned AWS constellation.

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ESA’s Arctic Weather Satellite’s (AWS) mission aims at improving the weather forecasts in the Arctic by providing global measurements of the atmospheric temperature and humidity with frequent revisit times. (courtesy: ESA)

The prototype for the Arctic Weather Satellite (AWS) mission currently being developed by ESA with OHB Sweden as Mission prime is the precursor to a potential satellite constellation that would provide a near-constant stream of temperature and humidity data from anywhere on Earth. This would make very short-term weather forecasts – known as "nowcasting" – in the Arctic possible for the first time and would allow to better predict storms or extreme weather conditions. OHB Sweden leads the industrial consortium for the AWS mission. Omnisys Instruments in Sweden is the instrument prime contractor from which RUAG Space has now received a contract to supply the power system for the prototype’s radiometer instrument including the design, manufacturing, testing and delivery.

Improving weather forecasts in the Arctic

Today, satellites, both those in geostationary orbit and in polar orbit, provide a wealth of information that meteorologists use routinely to forecast the weather. However, the monitoring of the Arctic remains insufficient. Up to now, only patchy weather data have been available for the polar regions. One of the reasons for this is that geostationary weather satellites have only limited coverage at high latitudes. Although measurements are also carried out by weather satellites on polar orbits, since they fly over all latitudes, there are relatively large time intervals between the individual data points. Atmospheric parameters, however, are subject to constant change, which is why data with high temporal resolution are needed for precise weather forecasts. The polar-orbiting AWS mission complements the data of existing satellites systems such as MetOp or its US counterpart, the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). It does that by providing global measurements of the atmospheric temperature and humidity with frequent revisit times which will help improve weather forecasts, specifically in the Arctic. For that, the AWS satellite will carry a 19-channel cross-track scanning microwave radiometer providing the necessary high-resolution humidity and temperature soundings of the atmosphere in all weather conditions.

“New Space” approach with agile, cost-effective production methods

With the mission, ESA is embracing the New Space approach. Anders Linder, head of the Electronics Product Group at RUAG Space, comments: “What makes AWS distinctive as an ESA project is that it embraces the New Space way-of-working. This means that cost-effective automotive grade components will be used, and agile development methods applied. Our team is determined to showcase what can be achieved by adopting a state-of-the-art approach here. We are excited to move forward with our customer Omnisys Instrument Sweden and work together with the entire AWS consortium for a successful mission.”

RUAG Space’s Power System is set to be delivered in Q4 2022. The launch of the prototype satellite weighting about 120 kilograms is planned to take place in 2024. The now ordered prototype is planned to be followed-up by a constellation of 16 AWS satellites. Subject to a follow-up decision after the prototype, the constellation would be implemented with the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites EUMETSAT according to the cooperation model established with the Meteosat and MetOp satellites.

RUAG Space, headquartered in Zurich, is the leading supplier to the space industry in Europe with a growing presence in the USA. Around 1300 employees in six countries (Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Germany, USA, and Finland) develop and manufacture products for satellites and launch vehicles – for both the institutional and commercial space markets. RUAG Space is part of RUAG International, a Swiss technology group with production sites in 14 countries, which is divided into four divisions: Space, Aerostructures, MRO International and Ammotec. RUAG International employs around 6,500 people, of whom around two thirds work outside Switzerland.

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