Thales Alenia Space has signed a €150m contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) to lead the development of the Fluorescence Explorer (FLEX) satellite mission.

As part of the contract, Thales will act as a programme prime contractor and lead a consortium to develop the programme.

The consortium will include Thales’ own subsidiaries and partners from the space sector.

Thales’ UK-based unit will be responsible for the satellite propulsion system, assembly, integration and testing (AIT) of the satellite.

The company’s Spanish subsidiary will supply the satellite’s radio-frequency subsystem, including X-band and S-band transponders, while Swiss technology company RUAG will design and produce the platform.

“This contract is the culmination of Thales Alenia Space’s development strategy in Europe.”

Thales Alenia Space France Observation and Science head Marc Henri Serre said: “This contract is the culmination of Thales Alenia Space’s development strategy in Europe, including our ability to submit the first full consortium offer for ESA that integrates the industry consortium very early in the process.

“The FLEX programme is the latest reflection of our strong commitment to environmental programmes and a perfect illustration of our company’s watchword, ‘Space for Life’.”

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In 2015, FLEX was selected as ESA’s eighth Earth Explorer mission, which is scheduled to be launched in 2023.

The satellite will be equipped with the FLORIS instrument to observe the Earth’s vegetation fluorescence to quantify photosynthetic activity.

Leonardo will develop the high-resolution FLORIS imaging spectrometer as part of a contract awarded by ESA in 2016.

One of the parent companies of Thales Alenia Space, Leonardo is leading a consortium of European entities that includes primary partner OHB System to build the spectrometer, which is capable of operating in a  spectral range between 500nm and 880nm.

Thales also signed a novation agreement to integrate the FLORIS contract awarded by ESA to Leonardo.