Airbus To Build Platform for CNES-DLR Merlin Methane-monitoring Satellite

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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida — The French space agency, CNES, on April 27 awarded Airbus Defence and Space a contract to build the spacecraft platform and perform payload integration for the French-German Merlin methane-monitoring satellite.

The contract, valued at 30 million euros ($32.4 million), follows an earlier investment of 40 million euros from a French public bond fund that focused on upgrading the current Myriade small-satellite platform, whose first generation has been used regularly by CNES for several missions.

Airbus said the Myriade Evolution platform that Airbus will develop for Merlin is expected to result in a satellite with a 400-kilogram launch mass. The platform, called Astrobus-S, has been used for several optical Earth observation satellites sold by Airbus to export customers.

The Myriade lidar, or light detection and ranging, instrument will be provided by the German Aerospace Center, DLR, under a separate contract with Airbus.

Myriade will be the first French-German Earth observation satellite. When first approved by the two nations’ heads of state, it had been scheduled for launch in 2014.

CNES and Airbus said the plan now is for DLR to deliver the payload in early 2019 for a launch late that year, with operations to start in 2020.

Merlin, or Methane Remote Sensing Lidar Mission, would operate for three years, CNES said.