Paris, France: European Space Agency (ESA) prepared three ‘Reports for Mission Selection’ for the ESA Ministerial Council meeting in November, at which funding is sought to finance the development of the seventh ‘Earth Explorer’ mission. The three satellite concepts for the next Earth Explorer mission include Biomass, CoReH2O and PREMIER mission concepts. They were selected in 2009 and each candidate has undergone a set of rigorous activities to demonstrate their value to science and that they are technically viable.
The Biomass mission will study the global distribution of forest biomass using a new P-band polarimetric, interferometric synthetic aperture radar. CoReH2O employs a new twin-frequency (Ku- and X-band) imaging radar to study the global distribution of snow and seasonal variations in the amount of water stored in snow. Meanwhile, PREMIER will study coupling between dynamic and chemical processes in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere using a combination of infrared and microwave limb imaging instruments.
Each of the concepts reiterated that the pursuit to advance scientific knowledge about earth can only be accomplished through long-term commitment to the development of innovative space technology.
After the recent loss of the Envisat mission, the addition of a seventh ‘Earth Explorer’ to the current missions will help to shape the future of earth observation by ESA. The Earth Observation Envelope Programme (EOEP) forms the backbone of ESA’s activities in earth observation, whilst also providing the critical funding for the Earth Explorer series of missions.
The upcoming fourth period, EOEP-4, will ensure Europe stays at the forefront of satellite-based science and applications, while stimulating technical innovation and industrial growth. Importantly, the programme also lays the foundation for international cooperation for a collaborative approach in understanding and tackling global environmental challenges.
The programme and the selection of new Earth Explorer missions offer a solid investment for Europe to further science and develop superior technology. In return, the Explorers secure a solid heritage for future missions for much-needed operational purposes.
Pending the outcome of the Ministerial Council, a few steps remain prior to selection of the seventh Earth Explorer. A User Consultation Meeting is scheduled in early 2013 where the three missions will be presented to the scientific community.
The extended Phase-A activities, which are under way, will consolidate the concepts even further and address areas of remaining risk prior to the meeting. These results will be summarised in ‘delta reports’ to deliver the most comprehensive picture on the status of each candidate mission.