The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded design study contracts for the payload module on the Chinese-European SMILE programme to investigate the interaction between the magnetosphere and the solar wind.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded Thales Alenia Space and two other competitors design study contracts for the payload module on the SMILE (Solar Wind Magnetospheric Ionospheric Link Explorer) programme.
SMILE is a joint mission between ESA and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) to investigate the interaction between Earth’s protective shield – the magnetosphere – and the supersonic solar wind. It will be the first time that ESA and China jointly select, design, implement, launch and operate a space mission.
The SMILE satellite comprises a platform supplied by CAS and a completely independent payload module (PLM) supplied by ESA. The PLM contains four science instruments from Canada, the UK and China, along with the PLM control unit and mass storage, the power distribution unit (PDU) and the X-band communication system to transmit science data to the ground.
The 2t satellite is scheduled for launch from French Guyana into a Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) with a 12,000km apogee over the North Pole. The contract is significant for Thales Alenia Space as it offers an opportunity to become UK prime contractor working directly with ESA engineering teams.
If Thales Alenia Space were to win the PLM contract, it would be in charge of assembly, integration and testing of the module at the future national satellite test facility due to open in 2020. This centre, financed by the UK government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), is intended to encourage local design and integration of increasingly complex space instruments and high-technology satellites.