Thales Alenia Space has signed a contract worth €450 million with the European Space Agency (ESA) to build the Sentinel 3C and 3D environmental monitoring and oceanographic satellites for the European Copernicus program.

The company is once again prime contractor for these two new satellites, as it was for the Sentinel-3A and 3B satellites, with responsibility for design, development, integration and testing. These satellites are compatible with the European light launcher, Vega, and will each be fitted with four main instruments.

These comprise two radar instruments: a Synthetic aperture Radar ALtimeter (SRAL) completed by a MicroWave Radiometer (MWR), used to provide versatile capability of surface topography measurement with primary mission over the oceans but offering also sea ice, ice and in land waters and land capabilities, alongside two optical instruments: one dedicated to the color of the oceans, OLCI (Ocean and Land Color Instrument), and a Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR)

Slated for launch as from 2021, the Sentinel 3C and 3D satellites are an integral part of Europe’s vast Earth observation program – Copernicus (formerly known as GMES), headed by the European Commission (EC) in partnership with ESA. Copernicus aims to ensure European independence in the acquisition and management of the planet’s environmental data, to provide sound support for Europe’s authorities and decision-makers.

Each satellite will weigh approximately 1.2 metric tons at launch, and will be positioned in low Earth orbit (LEO) at an altitude of 815 km.

“We are extremely proud of winning this major contract, which confirms Thales Alenia Space’s long-standing expertise in the manufacture of Earth observation satellites and instruments,” said Jean Loïc Galle, CEO of Thales Alenia Space. “Our selection by ESA also shows that we have the capabilities needed to meet the technological challenges of this program, while making a major contribution to Europe’s environmental protection strategy, today and for years to come.”