EarthCare uses Swiss technology to fly into space

04 June 2024 09:10

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Vandenberg - The EarthCare research satellite of the European Space Agency has been successfully launched for its mission. Swiss Technology can also be found on board, developed by APCO Technologies, Beyond Gravity and Thales Alenia Space Switzerland.

The EarthCare climate satellite of the European Space Agency (ESA) has made a successful start to its mission. According to a press release, it embarked from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on 29 May.

Scientists are hoping to obtain profound insights into the planet’s climate and weather phenomena from the research results of this joint European-Japanese project. They hope to better understand how clouds and aerosoles influence the climate. “EarthCARE is the most complex of ESA’s research missions to date”, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programs, Simonetta Cheli, is quoted in the press release. “The mission comes at a critical time when advancing our scientific knowledge is more important than ever to understand and act on climate change.”

Swiss companies participated in the developments of components for the mission. Beyond Gravity, a subsidiary of the RUAG Group based in Zurich, is responsible for ensuring the thermal insulation of the satellite. Moreover, the drive system for the solar field covering an area of 21 square meters was developed by the company. This supplies the energy required to power the satellites.

Using what is known as a lidar, the satellite can measure cloud surfaces and tiny atmospheric particles called aerosols in the atmosphere. For these measurements, the Zurich-based company Thales Alenia Space Switzerland has supplied an etalon, a calibrated measuring unit with high spectral resolution. In addition, APCO Technologies has developed an ultra-stable optical bench for what the ESA refers to as the “centerpiece” of the satellite, as well as a series of ground devices for the platform. The measurement data from this lidar system is not only used for climate research, but also by weather forecasters. Up to now, measurement data of this kind was recorded by the Franco-American satellite Calipso and the cloud satellite Cloudsat. ce/eb

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