The European Space Agency (ESA) went ahead, on 13 November, with signing three, two-satellite construction contracts with European industry. Two have been awarded to Thales Alenia Space and one to Airbus Defence and Space. These contracts cover three of the six future Copernicus missions outlined by the ESA Council in Spain in 2019. The total value of these awards is EUR€1.34 billion (US$1.58 billion).

The three programmes involved in this round of contracts are the Thales lead: CIMR (Copernicus Imaging Microwave Radiometer) and CHIME (Copernicus Hyperspectral Imaging Mission) missions, and the Airbus-lead LSTM (Copernicus Land Surface Temperature Monitoring). All three are scheduled to fly in 2028-29 barring any delays. They are also expected to utilise Arianespace launch vehicles.

Due to funding uncertainties associated with ESA’s partner, the European Union, each award has a break-clause in 2021 or early 2022. This would stop project development (and funding) at a “Phase B2” level. However, like the two already issued contracts (CO2M and CRISTAL), even if a break-clause is activated the manufacturers are guaranteed a level of funding. The total amount of assured financing for these three missions is EUR€278 million (US$329 million).