The contract to build the European Space Agency (ESA) Biomass radar-based forest research satellite has been awarded to Airbus Defence and Space (Airbus DS). The contract is valued at €229 million (US$260 million).
The 1,250 kg spacecraft is to use a P-band radar to make a 3D map of the world’s forests and hence provide an estimate on its carbon holding and carbon capture abilities. The UK arm of Airbus DS based in Stevanage is the prime contractor to built the Astrobus-Medium satellite platform. The Airbus DS Friedrichshaven operation is to supply the P-band synthetic aperture radar with the 12 m antenna being built by Harris Corporation, USA.
The entire project to observe changes in the world’s forestation and biomass including its Vega launch in 2021 and five years operation has been valued by ESA for budgetary perusposes at €420 million. Some nations such as USA and UK will not be “imaged” by the high resolution radar as it interferes with their military space and missile tracking radar systems which also operate in P-band.