Nasa has given a contract to the University of Colorado to develop the Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor for the new National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS).

Under the estimated $42m deal, the university will be responsible for design, engineering, hardware and software development. It will also test, evaluate and support the integration of the instrument with the NPOESS.

The sensor will take climate measurements of solar irradiance to determine the Earth’s energy balance and understand how the Earth’s climate responds to solar variability.

NPOESS, a joint programme by Nasa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), aims to build next-generation polar-orbiting operational environmental satellites that will form the basis for weather forecasting.

The programme is co-funded by NOAA and the Department of Defense, with Nasa as a technology provider.