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24.11.2016 | RUAG Space

RUAG Space helps build second generation of MetOp Satellites

Two of Europe’s successful MetOp climate-research and weather satellites are already in orbit; a third is scheduled to launch in 2018. To help ensure a seamless continuation to meteorological and climatic research from some 800 km above the Earth, work has already begun on the next generation of MetOp satellites. RUAG Space is playing a pivotal role in the development and construction of the next-generation satellites. Indeed, the company has already received orders together worth some 24 million euros.

Medium-term weather forecasts and long-term climate change are of great interest to many people. In addition to terrestrial observation systems and weather balloons, the European Meteosat family has been used to observe and research weather patterns since the late 1970s. To gain a better understanding of global weather behaviour, satellites orbiting at around 800 km above the Earth will complement the Meteosat satellites orbiting at some 36,000 km. ESA and Eumetsat have jointly developed three such lower-orbit solutions: MetOp satellites. Two are already in orbit and a third is to be deployed in 2018. To ensure that this successful meteorology programme proceeds as smoothly as possible, development of the next generation of MetOp satellites has already begun. The first of these second-generation satellites is scheduled to launch in 2021. Equipped with various measurement instruments, six satellites in all are to ensure the continuation of global weather observation and climate research until 2040.

Based in Austria, RUAG Space GmbH supplied essential parts for all three first-generation MetOp satellites. Having secured several orders, RUAG Space is now also a key player in developing and building the second generation. In Vienna, RUAG Space develops and manufactures modules for the main on-board computer and the electronic motor-control system for rotating antennas. The company is also heavily involved in advancing GRAS, an instrument for atmospheric sounding. Like for many other missions, all six MetOp satellites will be fitted with thermal insulation made in Austria.

The electronics modules for the satellite computer are part of the remote interface unit (RIU), which is being developed by an international team overseen by RUAG Space Sweden. These modules will help collect and digitise data from the many on-board sensors so it can then be evaluated by the satellite computer.

RUAG Space will supply Norwegian satellite outfitter Kongsberg with an electronic control system for the alignment mechanism for one of the antennas on board the new MetOp satellites. Developed by RUAG Space, this control system allows the antenna to be aligned very smoothly and with minimum of shaking, thus largely eliminating the interference that vibrations cause to the high-precision measurement equipment that satellites carry.

Second-generation MetOp satellites will feature an upgraded version of the GRAS (GPS Receiver for Atmospheric Sounding) instrument used successfully by the first MetOp satellites. Designed by RUAG Space in Sweden and Austria, GRAS can now, in addition to GPS signals, process navigation signals from Europe's Galileo satellite system. This innovation provides valuable data on temperature and humidity in our planet's atmosphere. The GRAS-2 receiver and its complex software were designed by RUAG Space in Vienna. RUAG Space Austria has built on this expertise to establish itself as a worldwide leading supplier of navigation-signal receivers for satellites.

Just like for the first-generation MetOp satellites, thermal insulation for the second generation will come from RUAG Space Austria, providing the satellites with protection against the extreme temperatures of space.

These orders placed with RUAG Space Austria total approximately 24 million euros. The contracts will be carried out under a programme of and funded by the European Space Agency.