Space

Selection of the prime contractors for the new Copernicus missions by ESA

2.5 billion euros were awarded by the European Space Agency to develop contracts for six Earth-observation missions, which is intended to be under Copernicus remote-sensing satellite plan. 

The German Space Agency DLR said that 800 million euros of all the contracts would be given to Germany companies. 

The decision to fund the High-Priority Candidate Missions was agreed in a meeting held in Seville, Spain. In the last meeting, Germany promised to spend 3.3 billion euros on the upcoming space programs, emerging as the biggest ESA contributor. 

The Thales Alenia Space of Italy and France is expected to lead three among the six missions, while the Airbus of Spain and Germany was going to lead two, and the OHB of Germany was going to lead remaining one. 

Bremen, which is Germany-based OHB Space Systems, said that it would pilot the CO2M mission as the primary contractor. It will offer all the necessary instruments for two of the Thales Alenia Space-led missions: the Copernicus Imaging Microwave Radiometer mission (CIMR) as well as the Copernicus Hyperspectral Imaging Mission (CHIME). 

The development of ROSE-L, the synthetic aperture radar mission, will be led by the Thales Alenia Space. The prime contractor for Snow Topography Altimeter and Copernicus Polar Ice mission will be the Germany-based Airbus Defence Space. 

Copernicus Land Surface Temperature Monitoring program, also called LTSM, will also be led by the Airbus. However, this will be done from a division that is in Spain. 

United Kingdom Space Agency, which is part of the ESA, expressed its disappointment as no UK firms were among Copernicus prime contractors that were announced by the ESA’s Industrial Policy Committee as a result of the vote on July 1. However, the UK Space Agency said it committed and will work closely with ESA to make sure its investments yield industrial returns in line with space’s national ambitions.  

“The agency also said that the UK organizations would play an essential role in the five out of the six Copernicus High Priority Candidate missions,” said a United Kingdom Space Agency spokesman. 

ESA uses a practice called geographic return while making contracts awards, considering every member state’s budget contributions. 

The five ESA’s prime contributors are France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. However, it is the only United Kingdom that did not get Copernicus prime contract for its companies from the Industrial Policy Committee meeting held on July 1. 

About the author

Sarah Lacy

Sarah Lacy

Sarah Lacy is a reporter covering Amazon. She previously covered tech and transportation, and she broke stories on Uber's finances, self-driving car program, and cultural crisis. Before that, she covered cybersecurity in finance. Sarah's work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Politico, and the Houston Chronicle.
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