Thales Alenia Space has signed two contracts with The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) concerning the delivery of transponders and the travelling wave tube amplifiers for the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) and Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST) missions.
Thales Alenia Space in Spain will design, analyse, manufacture, test and deliver the S-band transponders, which are responsible for the transmission of spacecrafts’ housekeeping telemetries to the ground stations and the reception of ground commands. While Thales Alenia Space in Belgium will provide the Ka-band Travelling Wave Tube Amplifiers (TWTA), which are in charge of amplifying the Ka-band communications signals used to downlink the science data.
Speaking about the collaboration, Eduardo Bellido, CEO of Thales Alenia Space in Spain said: “We are thrilled to collaborate with NASA in two outstanding missions like PACE and WFIRST, which will contribute to answer questions related to the Earth’s changing climate and to unveil some of the greatest mysteries of the Universe. This contract confirms Thales Alenia Space’s worldwide leading position as key supplier of satellite communication equipment and adds to our contribution to previous NASA programmes like IBEX, OCO, Cygnus, JUNO, ICON or JWST.”
PACE is a strategic continuity mission, sponsored by NASA’s Earth Science Division, responding to the challenge of climate and environmental change. Planned for a launch in 2022-2023, the PACE satellite will be capable of collecting radiometric and polarimetric measurements of the ocean and atmosphere, from which ocean ecological, ocean biogeochemical, cloud and aerosol particle data will be determined. The PACE observatory comprises three instruments: the Ocean Color Instrument (OCI) and two Polarimeters (HARP2 and SPEXOne). It is planned for launch into a Sun synchronous polar orbit at 676.5 km altitude.
WFIRST is a NASA strategic mission rated as the top-priority large-scale project in Astronomy and Astrophysics. The WFIRST observatory is designed to settle essential questions in the areas of dark energy research, exoplanets detection and infrared astrophysics. The mission will answer basic questions about dark energy, such as whether cosmic acceleration is caused by a new energy component or by the breakdown of General Relativity on cosmological scales. WFIRST also plans to complete a census of circa 2,600 Exoplanets in the inner Milky Way to answer questions about potential life in the universe.
The WFIRST spacecraft will be equipped with an infrared telescope with a primary mirror the same size as in the Hubble Space Telescope -2.4 meters in diameter- and two instruments, the Wide Field Instrument and the Coronograph. The Wide Field Instrument will have a field of view that is 100 times greater than the Hubble infrared instrument, capturing more of the sky with less observing time. WFIRST is designed for a five-year mission with a targeted launch in 2025. It will operate at approximately 1.5 million kilometers from Earth in an orbit around the L2 Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system.