European Space Agency selects Airbus to measure Earth’s heat emissions from space

STEVENAGE, UK – Airbus has won a $168 million contract for the European Space Agency’s (ESA) FORUM satellite to measure the heat emitted from Earth to space. FORUM, short for Far-infrared Outgoing Radiation Understanding and Monitoring, will be the first satellite to observe Earth in the far-infrared part of the spectrum. The onboard technology will provide measurements of the energy out of the Earth to help improve understanding of the climate system.

FORUM’s spectrometer measurements will allow scientists to compile a high-resolution view of Earth’s greenhouse effect and the properties of ice clouds and water vapor in the atmosphere. Airbus is the primary mission with OHB providing the instrument.

Airbus at Stevenage will lead the development of the satellite, with Airbus in Germany responsible for the instrument signal detection chain and Airbus in France providing product support for the platform.

Using proven technology in orbit will significantly reduce program risk and cost. The mission avionics have been developed, validated and flown together on previous missions, which will provide savings in verification activities, software development and operating procedures.

FORUM’s main instrument will be a Far Infrared Fourier Transform Spectrometer. Incoming short-wave radiation from the sun is absorbed at the Earth’s surface and re-emitted back out into space, through the atmosphere, at longer infrared wavelengths. FORUM will measure the signature of this outgoing radiation, from which a crucial understanding of water vapour, ice clouds, surface snow and ice, carbon dioxide and other characteristics greenhouse gases can be derived. The satellite will also be equipped with a thermal imager for the validation of ground samples.

The FORUM satellite will fly in loose formation ahead of the MetOp-SG A1 satellite for synergistic observations using MetOp-SG A1’s infrared atmospheric sounding interferometer. Using MetOp data at shorter infrared wavelengths will complement and further enhance FORUM’s own science.

Sourcing from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be a key part of the FORUM mission to further improve the space supply chain in ESA Member States. The 1,947-pound FORUM satellite will be in polar orbit at an altitude of 516 miles and is scheduled to launch on a Vega-C launch vehicle from Kourou, French Guiana in 2027. FORUM will be the 9th Earth Explorer mission in the Future EO program of the ‘ESA.

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