QinetiQ to build ozone-monitoring satellite for European Space Agency

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WASHINGTON — British aerospace company QinetiQ received a 75 million euro ($82.6 million) contract from the European Space Agency to build a small satellite for ozone measurements. 

QinetiQ will build Altius, the Atmospheric Limb Tracker for Investigation of the Upcoming Stratosphere, at its new cleanroom in Kruibeke, Belgium, the company said Jan. 27.

The satellite is scheduled to launch in 2023 from French Guiana, where European launch provider Arianespace conducts its missions. QinetiQ spokesperson Marta Lebron said a rocket has not yet been decided on for Altius, which is expected to weigh around 270 kilograms. 

Altius was proposed by the Royal Belgian Institute of Space Aeronomy, and is mostly funded by Belgium, according to the European Space Agency. 

QinetiQ will lead a team of companies from Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg and Romania to build the Altius satellite. Oudenaarde, Belgium-based OIP Sensor Systems is the prime contractor for the satellite instrument. 

Altius will monitor the distribution and evolution of stratospheric ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere using an instrument capable of ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared observations. The satellite will also track trace gases such as nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant caused by fossil fuels that is known to cause asthma. 

QinetiQ is building Altius using an evolved version of its P200 platform, designed for satellites between 200 and 300 kilograms, and missions between five and seven years, according to a company presentation given at the 70th International Astronautical Congress in October.  

Altius is expected to have a minimum mission life of three years.