UK: Thales Alenia Space, a UK company, has been picked to undertake the Assembly, Integration, and Test (AIT) for a satellite that will help in grappling with climate change.
The company has signed a contract with the UK Space Agency to work on MicroCarb, a joint UK-French satellite mission which will measure sources and sinks of carbon, the main greenhouse gas behind increasing global warming. It is the first European mission intended to characterize greenhouse gas fluxes on Earth’s surface and ascertain how much carbon is being absorbed by oceans and forests, the main sinks on the planet.
The mission, which is scheduled to launch in 2020, will also contribute to global efforts to gauge how much carbon gas is being emitted by natural phenomenon and human activities. MicroCarb will enable the UK Space Agency and CNES to formulate a longer-term operational system in response to the Paris COP21 Agreement.
Engineers of Thales Alenia Space will work in close partnership with the CNES project team and assume complete responsibility to manage and deliver the satellite AIT programme at the UK’s National Satellite Test Facility (NSTF) in Harwell. This world-class facility, due to open in 2020, has been awarded £99 million in funding by the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to invigorate the UK’s space capabilities for the design and developing more complex space instruments and technologically advanced satellites.
Science Minister, Jo Johnson, speaking on a visit to Thales Alenia Space’s Belfast facility, said: “The UK space sector is brimming with talent and our collaboration with France on MicroCarb is an excellent platform to demonstrate our cutting-edge science and engineering, which is at the core of our Industrial Strategy. It is great to see our £99m investment in the new National Satellite Test Facility is already making a difference for the sector. This facility will make Harwell a world-class hub for innovative space technology, helping UK companies like Thales Alenia Space be more competitive in the global market and support our ambition to capture 10% of the global space market by 2030.”
The contract is reflective of Thales Alenia Space’s strategy of rapidly increasing its European footprint and is in consonance with market trends and growth dynamics.
Ben Olivier, CEO of Thales Alenia Space in the UK, said: “MicroCarb will be a significant demonstration of what space technology and science from satellites can contribute to the understanding of the carbon cycle; ultimately helping decision makers to develop the best policies to make the World a better place. We are proud to be a part of this effort.”
For Thales Alenia Space in the UK, this is a significant milestone in the recognition of the company’s developing capability as a Prime contractor in the UK for major space missions.