On 14 March, in Paris, ESA’s Industrial Policy Committee approved the
awarding of the main contract for the manufacture of the Herschel and
Planck scientific satellites. This contract, the largest so far for a
space science project undertaken by ESA, has been awarded to a European
industrial consortium led by Alcatel Space Industries of France, with
Astrium GmbH of Germany and Alenia Spazio of Italy also as main contractors.

Negotiations between ESA and Alcatel Space are expected to start shortly,
in order to reach an agreement that would allow industry to start work on
these two challenging scientific missions as soon as possible. The contract
covers the design, development, construction, test, launch and in-orbit
commissioning of the two spacecraft.

Under the approved arrangements, Alcatel Space will be the Prime
Contractor, and will also be in charge of the Planck Payload Module
development and the Planck spacecraft assembly and testing. Astrium GmbH,
whose extensive experience in cryostat technology has been proven in the
ISO project, will be entrusted with the Herschel Payload Module (cryostat)
development, as well as with the Herschel spacecraft assembly and testing.
Alenia Spazio will be in charge of the Service Modules for both Herschel
and Planck spacecraft.

However, the list of European companies taking part in this large
industrial undertaking does not stop there. The subcontractors involved
in this contract will cover all the 15 European countries which are
members of ESA.

Background information on Herschel and Planck

Herschel and Planck will be launched together in 2007, but they will
separate shortly after launch and will be operated independently. They
will be located at a distance of 1.5 million kilometres from Earth.

Herschel will be the largest space telescope ever launched, with a 3.5
metre primary mirror. It will be the first space observatory covering
the full far-infrared and submillimetre waveband. Its main goal is to
study how the first stars and galaxies formed and evolved.

Planck will help to understand the origin and evolution of our Universe.
It will analyse with the highest accuracy ever achieved the first light
that filled the Universe after the Big Bang, the Cosmic Microwave
Background radiation.


* Herschel home page


* Planck home page


* Herschel science home page


* Planck science home page



[Image 1:
Artist impression of ESA’s Planck (bottom) and Herschel (formerly FIRST)
satellites just after separation.

[Image 2:
Artist’s Impression of the Herschel Spacecraft.

[Image 3:
Artist’s impression of the Planck Spacecraft.