The Belgian company, based in Liège, will supply the 6 hyperspectral spectrometers at the heart of the CHIME satellite mission (Copernicus Hyperspectral Imaging Mission for the Environment also known as Sentinel-10). The latter is part of the extension of the Copernicus program of the European Commission, in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA).
Last October, AMOS successfully passed the Critical Design Review for the CHIME spectrometer, a fundamental step in the project which validates the detailed design proposed by AMOS. Now that this milestone has been reached, AMOS can start manufacturing the flight instrument.
The initial contract for this mission was signed in November 2020, between ESA and the FrancoItalian company Thales Alenia Space. The agreement covers the design and assembly of two satellites for the CHIME hyperspectral mission. Thales Alenia Space will supply the satellites, while its partners, the Leonardo industrial group and the German company OHB, will provide the payload, i.e. the hyperspectral Earth Observation instrument.
In December 2020, OHB officially commissioned AMOS, a long-standing partner, to design and build the 6 hyperspectral spectrometers for this mission, whose main objective is to “provide regular hyperspectral observations in support of EU and related policies for natural resource management”. This unique observation capability will be based on visible and near-infrared spectroscopy. Positioned at an altitude of 632 km, the CHIME satellites will provide hyperspectral data useful for agriculture, food security, soil condition, biodiversity, natural disaster management, coastal and inland areas, as well as forests.
Each CHIME satellite will embark three spectrometers, each the size of a shoebox, placed sideby-side, in order to be able to scan a 120km wide strip on the Earth’s surface at once. Such a satellite will provide detailed spectral information of unprecedented quality for every pixel in the observed zone, with a 30m ground resolution. The wealth of spectral information collected for each pixel will make it possible to determine not only the type of soil or vegetation present there, but also the need or not to irrigate the crops, the need for fertilizer, the early detection of possible diseases, land or sea pollution, etc. The availability of a very large number of contiguous spectral bands, covering a wide range of wavelengths far beyond what our human eye can detect, means that a specific spectral signature can be associated with materials, substances, humidity levels, pigment quantities… In this way, this technology offers unique discriminating power and the ability to detect, differentiate, analyze and understand multiple environmental processes.
A major breakthrough
To date, equipment designed by AMOS (optical instruments, subsystems and flight equipment, optical and mechanical ground test solutions) has directly contributed to over 40 space missions, including 7 of the Sentinel missions of the COPERNICUS program. This is the first time, however, that AMOS has truly been at the heart of a flagship space mission, providing the core of the instrument. Based on ELOIS technology, this unique design allows for reducing with a factor of 4 to 8, in terms of volume and weight, compared with what currently exists, without compromising on the performance. This cutting-edge miniaturization has convinced ESA and OHB, and once again underlines the ability of the Liege-based company to meet, and even anticipate, the technological challenges imposed by the most ambitious space missions.
The 4 keys to AMOS innovation
The 4 keys to AMOS innovation in this project are:
–freeform optical design, freed from the geometric constraints of standard shapes;
–broadband diffraction gratings, one of which is already in orbit around the moon on ISRO’s Chandrayaan II probe;
–slits of up to 10cm in length, with a very high precision in terms of straightness and width;
–and finally, the use of innovative aluminum alloys for the entire system, making it less sensitive to temperature variations, easier to assemble, and enabling the production of freeform components with a precision of just a few nanometers.
This success is the result of a several years’ investment in the development and maturation of these innovative technologies, made possible with the support of the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO) and ESA.
“With all the spectrometers and the slits, AMOS provides the complete heart of the CHIME instrument. We look forward to continuing our excellent collaboration with AMOS, which began with the Meteosat Third Generation project”
said Christoph Bartscher, HSI Instrument Programme Manager at OHB.
“We are proud of this recognition by OHB of our perseverance and the quality of our teams’ work. This project is part of a series of successful collaborations and contribute to further strengthening our partnership with OHB. The trustful relationship between AMOS and OHB is a guarantee of success for this ambitious mission. The successful spectrometer’s CDR demonstrates AMOS’ ability to design such state-of-the-art instruments on schedule,”
adds Xavier Verians, AMOS Business Development Director. There are indeed only two sub-systems that have reached this step to date; the spectrometer being the most critical.