The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded a €200m contract to Airbus Defence and Space to provide two optical Sentinel satellites under the European Copernicus earth observation programme.

Airbus is the prime contractor and will lead a consortium of more than 50 companies from 17 European countries and the US.

The consortium will deliver Sentinel-2C and Sentinel-2D as part of the Sentinel-2 Earth observation satellite system.

In 2021, the two satellites will take over environment and land surface observatory missions from the previous two satellites.

The Copernicus programme provides data to support various applications such as air-quality forecasting, flood warnings, early detection of drought and desertification, early warnings of severe weather, oil-spill detection and drift prediction, sea water quality, crop analysis, forest monitoring, land use change, agriculture, food security and humanitarian aid.

Developed by ESA for Copernicus, each Sentinel mission is based on a constellation of two satellites.

"Continuous high-quality data spanning several decades is essential for the large community of users."

Sentinel-1 is a polar-orbiting, all-weather, day and night radar imaging mission for land and ocean services, which was launched in April 2014.

Sentinel-2, launched in June 2015, is a polar-orbiting, multispectral high-resolution imaging mission for land monitoring. Sentinels 3-6 missions are planned for future launches.

Airbus Space Systems head François Auque said: "ESA’s new order for the Copernicus satellites with by far the widest range of applications demonstrates the great confidence the agency has in our know-how.

"Continuous high-quality data spanning several decades is essential for the large community of users.

"The delivery of the Sentinel-2C and 2D satellites will ensure this continuity, allowing the advanced monitoring of our environment and land usage to continue."

Airbus Defence and Space in Friedrichshafen, Germany, is undertaking Sentinel-2 system design, platform and satellite integration and testing.

The company’s facility in Toulouse, France, is delivering the multispectral instrument (MSI). Its plant in Madrid, Spain, is responsible for the mechanical satellite structure for producing the thermal equipment and cable loom, and for the delivery of power, energy management and high speed data acquisition units.

Image: Airbus Defence and Space has been part of Copernicus programme since 1998. Photo: courtesy of Airbus DS GmbH.