The European Space Agency (ESA) has officially appointed EADS Astrium as prime contractor to build its Aeolus satellite. Aeolus, ESA’s second Earth Explorer Core mission, will provide global observations of the wind across the Earth’s surface with a vertical resolution that will satisfy the requirements of the World Meteorological Organisation in both climate research and operational forecasting. This has never been done by any other satellite mission.

Evert Dudok, Director of Earth Observation, Navigation and Science said, “This is a unique and challenging mission which EADS Astrium is looking forward to undertaking, in partnership with ESA, to provide a long term European capability that will be of great benefit to mankind. Today marks a significant milestone in the eight-year programme to develop Aeolus, which began in 1999.”

Originally called the Atmospheric Dynamics Mission(ADM), the programme was renamed Aeolus after the mortal Aeolus who was appointed ’the keeper of the winds’ by the Greek Gods. With a total cost of some €300million over the lifetime of the Aeolus mission, the spacecraft itself is valued at around €180million.

Colin Paynter, Managing Director of EADS Astrium Limited, said, “We are extremely pleased that the UK arm of EADS Astrium has, after many years working on the programme with ESA, NERC and BNSC, been selected to lead this exciting programme. It is expected that a very significant amount of the spacecraft cost will be spent in the UK.”

EADS Astrium will be responsible for the overall system design and will be supported by up to 50 space companies in 12 European countries for the supply of the various equipments and services.

The Aeolus spacecraft, based on the Mars/Venus Express platform design, with a launch mass of about 1.5 tonnes and an expected lifetime of 3 years, is scheduled for launch in October 2007. It will be placed in a Sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 400km, enabling it to collect information from anywhere on the planet. It will provide global observations of three-dimensional wind fields, which will improve current wind-profiling and thus enhance atmospheric modelling and analysis techniques, benefiting operational weather forecasting and climate research. This mission will increase the knowledge, and improve the forecasting, of extreme weather phenomena caused by global warming and/or the effects of pollution.

Aeolus’ only instrument, the Atmospheric Laser Doppler Lidar Instrument (ALADIN), supplied by EADS Astrium, France, will gather data by the active Doppler Wind Lidar (DWL) method. An active component sends laser pulses towards the atmosphere and measures the Doppler shift of the collected return signal, backscattered at different levels in the atmosphere. Thus creating a wind profile showing the relative strength and direction of winds at different altitudes, as well as moisture and dust levels in the atmosphere. The UK companies E2V and SIRA are responsible for providing the Instrument Detector and Detector Ekectronics Unit.

In addition to the role of Prime Contractor, Astrium UK is responsible for the spacecraft’s Attitude and Orbit Control System and the Propulsion subsystem, the Thermal Control of the spacecraft and the Ground Processor which processes the raw data received from the satellite to determine the wind speed prior to distribution to the end user for subsequent, more detailed, analysis.

EADS Astrium is wholly owned by EADS SPACE. In 2002 EADS SPACE had a turnover of €2.2 billion and 12,300 employees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain. EADS Astrium’s satellite business activities cover complete civil and military telecommunications and Earth Observation systems, Science and Navigation programmes, and all spacecraft avionics and equipment.
Press Contacts

  •  EADS Astrium (FR)  Rémi Roland  ++33 (0) 1 34 88 35 78
  •  EADS Astrium (UK)  Alistair Scott  ++44 (0) 1438 77 3698
  •  EADS Astrium (GER)  Mathias Pikelj  ++49 (0) 7545 8 91 23