The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a $1.8bn satellite construction contract for six Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) satellites with Thales Alenia Space.
The new MTG family of satellites will provide high-resolution meteorological data to beyond 2037, starting from 2017.
The MTG programme, worth $3.2bn, is a cooperative venture between Eumetsat, the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, and ESA.
Thales Alenia Space president and CEO, Reynald Seznec, said: "I am very proud and very honored to sign the contract for the Meteosat Third Generation programme here at ESA, along with Eumetsat, CNES and Météo France, and our German partners OHB and KT, with whom we form the 'core team'."
Seznec continued: "This contract is the culmination of a long industrial optimisation approach, starting with the request for proposals."
Under the new MTG programme, six satellites will be launched to geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles above Earth's equator, including four MTG-1 imaging and two MTG-S sounding satellites.
The MTG-I prototype of the satellite is planned to be launched in late 2017, followed by liftoff of a MTG-S sounding spacecraft in 2019.
MTG-I will carry lightning imagers and search-and-rescue payload to deliver one image every ten minutes, and operate in 16 bandwidths which will be used to determine temperature and humidity profiles in a vertical section of the atmosphere.
MTG-S will carry the Sentinel-4 payload for the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme to analyse atmospheric chemistry and identify concentrations of trace gases.
With improved spatial resolution, continuous observation capability, and complementary imaging / sounding data, the MTG satellites will enhance the quality and reliability of meteorological models and weather forecasts.
OHB System will be responsible for MTG's two sounding satellites and will also supply the common satellite bus for all six MTG spacecraft, which will be three-axis stabilised.
Thales Alenia Space will supply the imaging instrument for four of the MTG satellites, and lead the overall development of imaging spacecraft.
Image: The MTG programme comprises four MTG-I imaging and two MTG-S sounding satellites. Photo: ESA P. Carril