Swiss companies equip EarthCARE satellite

Zurich/Aigle VD – Technologies from Beyond Gravity (formerly RUAG Space), Thales Alenia Space Switzerland and APCO Technologies are installed in the EarthCARE satellite of the European and Japanese space agencies. The most complex Earth observation mission to date will be launched in May 2024 and will investigate the role of clouds and radiation in the climate system.

On board the EarthCARE satellite is key technology that was developed in Switzerland. It comes from the companies Beyond Gravity, Thales Alenia Space Switzerland and APCO Technologies. EarthCARE is a joint project of the European Space Agency(ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. According to the ESA, this "most complex Earth exploration mission" to date is part of its Earth Explorer program, which consists of a series of satellites. According to ESA's EarthCARE project manager Dirk Bernaerts, EarthCARE will provide data "that science so urgently needs".

With its unique set of four instruments, EarthCARE will investigate the role of clouds and aerosols in reflecting solar radiation into space and in capturing infrared radiation emitted from the Earth's surface. The aim is to optimize global warming forecasts and improve numerical weather predictions. "The expectations for EarthCARE are actually quite high," explains Mission Manager Björn Frommknecht in an ESA video. This will be the first time "that the current climate models will be able to fully exploit the spatial resolution of the satellite data and see into the clouds for the first time".

The drive mechanisms for EarthCARE's 21 square meter solar field were developed and manufactured by Beyond Gravity in Zurich. Beyond Gravity also manufactured the central tube and the structural panels for EarthCARE in Zurich. The central tube is the central cylinder in which important components such as the tanks are housed. According to a LinkedIn post by Beyond Gravity, which has its headquarters in Zurich and is part of RUAG International, the company is also responsible for the thermal insulation that protects the satellite from the extreme heat and cold of space. The insulation was developed and manufactured at Beyond Gravity's facilities in Austria.

Thales Alenia Space Switzerland from Zurich supplied the etalon with high spectral resolution, the key unit for the mission's main instrument, the atmospheric lidar. APCO Technologies has developed an ultra-stable optical bench for this "heart of the satellite", as ESA calls it, as well as a range of ground equipment for the platform.

The satellite began its journey from the clean room at Airbus Friedrichshafen to the SpaceX spaceport in Vandenberg, California, at the beginning of March. The launch of the Falcon 9 launcher, also developed by SpaceX, which will take EarthCARE into orbit, is scheduled for May 2024. ce/mm

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