Kista, 9 March 2021. OHB Sweden AB, a subsidiary of the technology and space group OHB SE, and the European Space Agency ESA today signed the contract for the Arctic Weather Satellite (AWS) programme. The AWS is a part of ESA's Earth Watch programme, and the AWS satellite will be the proto-flight model for a possible constellation of satellites. The total value of the contract amounts to EUR 32.5 million.
The contract includes the development of the satellite and its payload, the development of the ground segment and also the preparation activities for the AWS constellation. The AWS will improve weather forecasts in the polar regions, but also globally. As the prime contractor, OHB Sweden leads an industrial consortium comprising companies from twelve countries. The AWS core consortium consists of OHB Sweden, Omnisys Instruments as instrument prime contractor and Thales Alenia Space as prime contractor for the ground segment.
From Germany, several small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are involved in the space segment of the mission including OHB System AG, which contributes with system level activities and AIT support.
While the polar regions are well served by polar-orbiting satellites, the suitability of meteorological geostationary observations is limited by geometric constraints. In particular, atmospheric water vapour can change rapidly and would benefit greatly from more frequent observations. As a response to this requirement, a constellation of polar-orbiting weather satellites could be implemented.
All satellites in the possible future constellation would be based on the same proven platform, namely the InnoSat platform developed by OHB Sweden. This approach would enable rapid and cost-efficient series production, especially for the possible constellation phase.
"We are proud that the AWS is the third satellite mission to be realised on the basis of our InnoSat platform," says Benoit Mathieu, Managing Director of OHB Sweden. "This gives our platform yet another opportunity to demonstrate its versatility and reliability – or, in short: its suitability for New Space."
The AWS is being developed to be the proto-flight model for the possible constellation. As its single payload, the satellite will carry a cross-track scanning microwave radiometer to precisely measure both the water content and the temperature of the atmosphere. These parameters are not only relevant for weather forecasts, but also for climate research. In the possible constellation phase, all satellites would be equipped with this payload, providing data with high temporal resolution.
"Weather and Climate have been key topics at OHB for more than ten years now - after all, our contribution to the MTG program has enabled us to play a major role in the development of the next generation of European geostationary weather satellites," explains Rüdiger Schönfeld, Director Earth Observation Systems at OHB System AG. "With the AWS programme, a further element is now being added. Compared with MTG, however, there is a major difference: in the constellation phase, it will not be a few large satellites but many small ones which will supply data to be used for weather forecasting. This has never been done before in this form."
The launch of the AWS is planned for 2024. Following this, implementation of the constellation could start.