Copernicus: Portugal wins contracts worth €10 million for future missions

Sentinel-6A integration at IABG, Ottobrunn Germany. The new Copernicus Sentinel will be launch on November 14 2020.

The European Space Agency awarded 2.5 billion euros in development contracts for six future Earth-observation missions under the Copernicus remote-sensing satellite programme. Five Portuguese companies won contracts worth 10 million.

Active Space Technologies, Critical Software, Deimos Engenharia, Frezite High Performance -FHP and INEGI – Institute of Science and Innovation in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering were selected by the European Space Agency to develop some of the components of the new Copernicus missions. Known as Copernicus High Priority Missions, the next phase of the Copernicus programme, an exceptional example of a joint venture between ESA and the European Union in the Space sector, will be co-funding by ESA and EU. Copernicus is a partner programme ESA-EU, as ESA Member States are financing the development of the space component including the first satellites of a constellation while the EU is financing the recurrent satellites, the full fleet’s operation as well as the procurement of commercial data to complement the Sentinels. The success of Copernicus is based in technological excellence and a data policy of open and free data, which enable the intermediate market to develop downstream applications for a wide number of private and institutional customers. Copernicus serves a fast-growing downstream market with annual growth rates in Europe of more than 10%.

The six High Priority Missions will represent at least 12 new European satellites, working along with the existing Sentinel satellites. The funding to develop the full Copernicus Programme as set out in the Long-Term Scenario plan still relies on the negotiation of the upcoming EU Multiannual Financial Framework, MFF. The decision happens after ESA Member States approved and subscribed to the ESA Copernicus Programme, which included the six High-Priority Candidate Missions, as part of the Space19+ ministerial conference. At the meeting, held in Sevilha in November 2019, Portugal subscribed a total of five million euros for the Copernicus Program, with the aim of giving Portuguese companies the opportunities in developing subsystem leadership in elements of important for the missions.

“Portuguese companies are expanding their presence in projects with an increasingly high value-added and also moving up the value chain, thereby strengthening the Portuguese Space sector”, states Ms Chiara Manfletti, President of Portugal Space. “A position that in the short term will require larger and more specialised human resources, which means we are on the right path to accomplishing one of main goals of Portugal Space: to create new and highly qualified jobs.”

Ms Chiara also adds that is “a great honour for Portugal to be involved in the Copernicus High Priority Missions, as sustainability and environmental protection is not only a goal to Europe Union, but especially for Portugal, that intends to lead the movement of carbon neutrality”.

The new Earth-observation missions under the Copernicus programme were designed to address European policy and gaps in Copernicus user needs and to expand the current capacities of the Copernicus space segment. The satellites going into orbit as a result of these missions will:

  • allow the measurement of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by human activity (CO2M);
  • provide information for sustainable agricultural and biodiversity management (CHIME);
  • create observations of sea-surface temperature, sea-ice concentration and sea-surface salinity (CIMR);
  • measure and monitor the sea-ice thickness and overlying snow depth (CRISTAL);
  • provide observations of land-surface temperature for sustainable agriculture and to predict drought (LSTM);
  • give information to support forest management and to monitor subsidence and soil moisture (ROSE-L).


Portuguese companies produce flight equipment

FHP – Frezite High Performance will be present in three of the six missions. The company will sign contracts worth 4.2 million Euro and will be involved in the preparation of CHIME, CO2M and CIMR. Mr Miguel Santos, manager at FHP, explains that one of the instruments allocated to FHP crowns the work carried within ESA’s framework for some years now. “It is a journey that the company has followed that culminates at flight hardware that didn’t exist in Europe four years ago”, he says referring to CIMR large deployable structure. In the other two missions, Mr Miguel Santos says that the projects awarded to the company are within FHP competences. These are the result “of being seen by the prime contractors and the community as a player increasingly present in this kind of project”. Furthermore, it will encourage the continuous innovation even in the thermal hardware process that will contribute to reinforce the Portuguese industry position in the space market.

As for the impact of the four new contracts on the future of the company, FHP believes that they will bring new deals, mainly because they will “be in direct connection with the three prime contractors” of Copernicus’ six High Priority Missions. A reality that is already perceived by FHP in other projects. “FHP has been strengthening the link with primes, not only with scientific missions but also in the commercial activities like communication satellites, which is excellent because they are recurring products and once the supply chain is established it is easier to get new projects”. 

Active Space Technologies also won a significant portion of the contracts attributed to Portugal and will be working at the LSTM mission, CIMR, and CHIME, totalling 3.2 million Euro. The Portuguese company, that has offices in the United Kingdom, states that the presence “in the Copernicus High Priority Missions is in line with a strategy that has been in place for many years”, according to Ricardo Patrício. These previous projects have caused Active Space Technologies “to design and manufacture the complete structure of a mission’s main instrument”. “We have been consolidating our internal design skills and manufacturing capabilities, which supports our growth in the value chain.”

The Business Development Manager of Active Space Technologies underlines that the participation in the new phase of Copernicus has two unique meanings: “The pride of contributing after Sentinel-3 and Sentinel-4 to this very relevant phase of the European environmental programme Copernicus, but also we are present in a programme that has a very interesting recurrence and that immediately leads us to participate in at least three satellites, and for the CIMR, to manufacture three flight structures”.

INEGI won a contract valued in 1.5 million Euro to develop the infrastructure that will allow the testing of an instrument of the CIMR. “INEGI’s participation in one of the new missions of Copernicus, namely the CIMR, proves the recognition of our ability to contribute to the construction of space equipment and increase Europe’s independence in this field”, says Mr José Coutinho Sampaio, director of Innovation and Technology Transfer at INEGI. This contract is also “the result of the work done over the last six years on projects of high quality, complexity and demand in the context of Large Deployable Structures”.

Critical Software will be working both on CRISTAL and ROSE-L, amounting to 0.6 million Euro. Mr Ricardo Armas, Business Development Manager from Critical, emphasises the importance of this project, as it “gives continuity to previous missions with Critical Software involvement, namely CryoSat, Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-6”. Both missions also allow Critical to gain “unique technical knowledge and competences to leapfrog development stages on other industrial safety critical markets where Critical Software has been acting and investing”. Equally important is the opportunity to “foster the existing collaboration with two major players in the European Space sector – Airbus and Thales Alenia Space”. From a financial point of view, “the projects will bring substance to the long term investment of Critical Software in the Space sector. Cross-industry knowledge and technological transfer are expected to generate further multiplier effects “.

Deimos Engenharia closes the list of Portuguese companies that will contribute to the new European satellites dedicated to studying and understanding the climate processes and, potentially, sustain the definition of actions to adapt to and mitigate the human factor in these processes. The company will be committed to the CIMR mission, which for Mr Nuno Ávila “is the recognition by ESA and the European Big Primes of Deimos Engenharia’s expertise in Earth Observation satellite data processing systems”. The new contract comes results from the work the company have been developing “for the past 17 years in several ESA and commercial missions”.

Thales Alenia Space France and Italy (CHIME, ROSE-L and CIMR missions), OHB System (CO2M) and Airbus Defence and Space (LSTM and CRISTAL) are the prime contractors for the new Copernicus missions. 

Portugal Space
25 of July, 2020