ESA Signs Contract with GomSpace to Build Scout CubeMAP

The Scout CubeMAP mission is a constellation of CubeSats that focus on understanding and quantifying atmospheric processes in the upper troposphere and in the stratosphere. (Credit: CubeMAP consortium)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA has signed a contract with GomSpace to build the Scout CubeMAP mission. Embracing the concept of New Space, CubeMAP is a trio of nanosatellites to help quantify atmospheric processes in the upper atmosphere and how they impact our climate. The constellation will measure water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, nitrous oxide and aerosols – all of which play a key role in the greenhouse effect and climate change.

The contract, worth €24 million, was signed by ESA’s Acting Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Toni Tolker-Nielsen, and CEO of GomSpace, Niels Buus.

This is the second contract to be signed for the build of a Scout mission, following the signature with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd for HydroGNSS in October.

Complementing ESA’s series of Earth Explorer research missions, Scout missions are a new element in ESA’s Earth Observation FutureEO Programme. The aim is to demonstrate the capability of nanosatellites to deliver value-added science, either by the miniaturisation of existing technologies or by demonstrating new sensing techniques. The aim is also to achieve this quickly – within three years from kick-off to launch.

Jean-Pascal Lejault, ESA’s Scout missions project manager, explained, “Scout missions are characterised by an agile and low-cost development process to prove new concepts for future ESA endeavours and to timely add scientific value to current data through supplementary observations.

“A Scout mission consists of one or several small satellites for rapid prototyping and demonstration purposes of novel Earth observation techniques for Earth science and related non-commercial applications. Scouts demonstrate disruptive sensing techniques or incremental science, while retaining the potential to be subsequently scaled up in larger missions or implemented in future ESA Earth Observation programmes.”

“CubeMAP will focus on the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere at tropical and sub-tropical latitudes, where megacities and their associated anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions grow fast. Each of the three satellites in the constellation carries three miniaturised ultra-high spectral resolution laser heterodyne spectro-radiometers and one miniaturised hyperspectral solar disk imager.”

CubeMAP is unique in that it will fly the first European heterodyne spectrometers for atmospheric measurements. These will be designed, produced, tested and integrated in less than three years, yet another industrial challenge on top of the scientific and programmatic challenges.

The mission is designed to have an operational life of two years in orbit to cover more than one full annual cycle, with the aim of extending the mission to four years to capture the effects of the El Niño Southern Oscillation.

With the contract now signed, GomSpace in Denmark will lead an industrial consortium to build CubeMAP. The consortium includes Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK, GomSpace in Luxembourg and in Sweden, Enpulsion in Austria, Hyperion in the Netherlands and KSAT in Norway.

Launch is planned to take place in 2024.