BREMEN, Germany – The British government has selected a consortium of companies led by Astrium to create an Earth observation satellite operations and data-processing center at a new facility established in Britain by the European Space Agency (ESA), Astrium announced July 21.

The EO Hub, funded at 4.9 million British pounds ($7.5 million), is scheduled to be operational by March 2011. The team setting up the facility includes Vega, an engineering services company; small-satellite builder Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.; Infoterra, which commercializes Earth observation products; and Astrium, which owns Infoterra.

The British Science and Technology Facilities Council contracted with the Astrium-led group to create the EO Hub at the International Space Innovation Centre in Harwell, England, which was recently created by ESA.

ESA officials had said that building a facility in Britain should stimulate space investment in that country and ultimately support future British contributions to the 18-nation agency.

The British Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is taking part in the financing of the EO Hub, as is the industrial consortium.

British Science Minister David Willets said the EO Hub is “the important first step in making the International Space Innovation Centre a reality, linking regional space capabilities and promoting knowledge-sharing between academia and industry.”

In a separate announcement July 20, Astrium said its Infoterra division of Britain will download and process data from the ERS-2 and Envisat radar Earth observation satellites under a three-year contract valued at 7.5 million euros ($9.7 million).

The contract with the Farnborough Multi-Mission Processing and Archiving Facility, acting on behalf of ESA, prolongs the service already offered by Infoterra, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Astrium Services.

ERS-2, already well past its scheduled service life, is scheduled for retirement in 2011. Envisat, which also has surpassed its design life, will be operated through 2013.

Under the contract, Infoterra will manage downloading and processing images from ESA’s Swarm mission to study the Earth’s magnetic field. The three Swarm satellites are scheduled for launch in mid-2011 and to operate in low Earth orbit for four years.


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Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.