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Arianespace bags first commercial launch contract from ESA

Paris, France: The European Space Agency (ESA) and Arianespace signed contracts for the launches of two of ESA’s Sentinel satellites. The contracts were signed by the Chairman and CEO of Arianespace, Jean-Yves Le Gall, and ESA’s Director General, Jean-Jacques Dordain.
These agreements not only mark a significant milestone for ESA’s family of Sentinel satellites, but they are also Arianespace’s first commercial launch contracts with ESA for Europe’s new light Vega rocket.
As the Sentinels are being developed by ESA for Europe’s Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme, the launches are co-funded by ESA and the EU. Supporting European policies, GMES uses accurate and timely data to provide key information services to improve the way the environment is managed, help mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security.
Since the provision of reliable data is a key to the success of the GMES programme, ESA is developing five families of Sentinel satellites specifically for GMES. The Sentinel missions are based on a constellation of two satellites to maximise coverage of Earth.
The contracts signed with Arianespace are for the second Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 satellites, which are now scheduled for launch in 2014–16 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.
Sentinel-2 carries a multispectral high-resolution imager primarily to monitor the land, providing data on vegetation, soil, water cover and coastal regions. Sentinel-3 carries several instruments to measure variables such as sea-surface topography, sea- and land-surface temperature and ocean colour.
Altogether, seven ESA Member States (Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden) are contributing to the Vega programme.