STEVENAGE, U.K. - Airbus has been awarded a $168 million contract for the European Space Agency’s (ESA) FORUM satellite to measure heat emitted from the Earth into space. FORUM, short for Far-infrared Outgoing Radiation Understanding and Monitoring, will be the first satellite to observe Earth in the far-infrared part of the spectrum. The on-board technology will provide measurements of the Earth’s outgoing energy to help improve understanding of the climate system.
Measurements from FORUM’s spectrometer will enable scientists to compile a high resolution view of the Earth’s greenhouse effect and the properties of ice clouds and water vapor in the atmosphere. Airbus is mission prime with OHB providing the instrument.
Airbus in Stevenage will lead the development of the satellite, with Airbus in Germany responsible for the instrument signal detection chain, and Airbus in France providing platform product support.
Using in-orbit proven technology will considerably reduce risk and costs on the program. Avionics for the mission have been developed, validated and flown together on previous missions, which will enable savings in verification activities, software development and operating procedures.
The main instrument on FORUM will be a Fourier Transform Spectrometer operating in the far-infrared. The sun’s incoming shortwave radiation is absorbed at the Earth’s surface and re-emitted into space, through the atmosphere, at longer infrared wavelengths. FORUM will measure the signature of this outgoing radiation, from which a crucial understanding of water vapor, ice clouds, surface snow and ice, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas characteristics can be derived. The satellite will also be equipped with a thermal imager for ground sample validation.
The FORUM satellite will fly in a loose formation ahead of the MetOp-SG A1 satellite for synergistic observations using MetOp-SG A1’s infrared atmospheric sounding interferometer. Using MetOp’s data at shorter infrared wavelengths will complement and further improve FORUM’s own science.
Procurement from small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) will be a key element of the FORUM mission to further enhance the space supply chain across ESA member states. The 1,947 lb. FORUM satellite will be in a polar orbit at an altitude of 516 miles and is scheduled to launch on a Vega-C launcher from Kourou, French Guiana in 2027. FORUM will be the 9th Earth Explorer mission of ESA’s Future EO Program.