Airbus, the leading aerospace company, has been awarded the latest phase in the European Space Agency’s (ESA) TRUTHS mission. The contract, worth €109.3 million, covers the detailed definition of the mission and payload, with a focus on payload development and de-risking activities. The contract also includes an option for the procurement of long lead time hardware.
The TRUTHS satellite mission aims to improve climatological data sets and calibrate observations of other satellites by measuring the Sun’s radiation and the sunlight reflected off Earth’s surface relative to an accurate reference.
Jean Marc Nasr, Head of Space Systems at Airbus, expressed excitement about the contract, stating that it brings scientists and climatologists one step closer to cross-referencing their measurements and data for more accurate forecasts and analysis. Nasr described TRUTHS as a “standards laboratory in space” that will provide the gold standard of calibration for space-based Earth observation.
The UK Science, Research, and Innovation Minister, Andrew Griffith, highlighted the global impact of this UK-led mission. He praised Airbus-UK for their work in generating growth and developing important industrial capabilities in the space sector. Griffith emphasized that TRUTHS will contribute to making the UK a science and technology superpower.
Simonetta Cheli, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, emphasized the importance of reliable data for climate action. Cheli expressed satisfaction in awarding the contract to Airbus in the UK and stated that TRUTHS will serve as a benchmark for comparing data from other satellites, improving reliability.
TRUTHS, which stands for Traceable Radiometry Underpinning Terrestrial and Helio Studies, will include the design definition of the mission and payload. It will also establish optical Earth instrumentation expertise in the UK, enhancing Europe’s capability for future Earth observation satellite missions.
The satellite will carry a Cryogenic Solar Absolute Radiometer (CSAR) and a Hyperspectral Imaging Sensor (HIS) as part of its payload. The CSAR will provide a primary calibration standard to benchmark measurements of solar radiation, while the HIS will measure outgoing reflected radiation. These measurements will enable the estimation of radiative imbalance underlying climate change in a shorter time than currently possible. TRUTHS will also calibrate other satellite sensors, such as those carried on the Copernicus missions.
TRUTHS is funded by several ESA member states, led by the UK, with the participation of the Czech Republic, Greece, Romania, Spain, and Switzerland. Airbus is supported by various partners in the development of the satellite, including Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, Teledyne e2v, National Physical Laboratory, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Deimos Space UK Ltd, AVS-UK Ltd, Thales Alenia Space Switzerland, Deimos Space SRL, Sener, and Integrated Systems Development. Other companies and institutes from the participating nations will also make significant contributions.
The UK aims to take a leadership role in this domain and build on its strong climate science expertise from institutions such as the National Physical Laboratory, the National Centre for Earth Observation, and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Space.