Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space selected for ICI instruments for the MetOp-SG satellites

- ICI (Ice Cloud Imager) radiometer will be the first space instrument to allow the determination of ice mass and average size of ice particles at various heights in clouds
- From 2021, the MetOp-SG programme will provide advanced meteorological data across the globe

Airbus Defence and Space, the world’s second largest space company, has been selected by ESA (the European Space Agency) to design and build the ICI (Ice Cloud Imager) instruments to be launched on-board the future MetOp-SG (Second Generation) series satellites. The contract, worth a total of around 90 million euros, has been awarded to supply the ICI instruments for the MetOp-SG series of satellites.

The first contractual document was signed during the presentation event of the European Second Generation Polar Satellite Programme for 2015-2040, held at the Spanish State Meteorological Agency (AEMET) in the presence of Philippe Goudy, Head of ESA’s Earth Observation Programmes Department, Alain Ratier, Director General of EUMETSAT (European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites), Miguel Ángel López, President of AEMET, Mª Luisa Poncela, President of CDTI (Centro para el Desarrollo Tecnológico Industrial), Michael Menking, Head of Earth Observation, Navigation & Science programmes at Airbus Defence and Space and Antonio Cuadrado, Director of Space Systems in Spain.

“With its capabilities to detect ice in clouds, ICI will be a completely new instrument that is unprecedented in the space field. In designing and building this state-of-the-art instrument, the Spanish space industry, with the support of the Spanish government, is helping to shape the future of meteorology over the coming decades,” said Antonio Cuadrado, Director of Space Systems in Spain.

Technologically, ICI will be a high-resolution scanning radiometer system of compact design, operating in 13 radio frequency channels in the sub-millimetre range between 183 GHz and 664 GHz. The ICI channels have been strategically selected in the absorption lines of water vapour and oxygen, so as to allow the measurement of ice cloud profiles and various precipitation parameters that cannot be obtained using existing instruments. The ICI mission will be able to provide information on a small scale in situations of high cloudiness and precipitation. It will fill the current observation gap regarding satellite observations of such parameters. Through the implementation of its various channels, it will have the ability to estimate the mass of ice and the average size of the ice particles at various heights in the clouds.

In addition to this primary application, the ICI instrument will also support weather forecasting, monitor hydrology and climate, provide information about the detection and quantification of snowfall, and help generate water vapour profiles and other imaging products using the acquired data.

MetOp-SG consists of two, parallel series of satellites (termed Satellite A and Satellite B), with three units in each series. ICI will be embarked on the Satellite B series. The nominal lifetime of each satellite is seven and a half years, which will provide a continuous, in-orbit, operational capability of at least 21 years for each series of satellites. The first Satellite A will be launched in 2021, followed by the first Satellite B in 2022.

The MetOp-SG satellites constitute the space segment of the next generation EUMETSAT Polar System. The funding for the MetOp-SG satellites is provided by ESA and EUMETSAT, where ESA is responsible for the development of the space segment, while EUMETSAT funds the recurrent satellites, the ground segment and performs the routine operations.


About Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space is a division of Airbus Group formed by combining the business activities of Cassidian, Astrium and Airbus Military. The new division is Europe’s number one defence and space enterprise, the second largest space business worldwide and among the top ten global defence enterprises. It employs some 40,000 employees generating revenues of approximately €14 billion per year.

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