ESA: Prime Contractor Selected for ESA's Herschel and Planck Space Satellites
Feature • March 20, 2001
On 14 March, in Paris, ESA's Industrial Policy Committee approved the awarding of the main contract for the manufacture of the Herschel and Planck scientific satellites. This contract, the largest so far for a space science project undertaken by ESA, has been awarded to a European industrial consortium led by Alcatel Space Industries of France, with Astrium GmbH of Germany and Alenia Spazio of Italy also as main contractors.
Negotiations between ESA and Alcatel Space are expected to start shortly, in order to reach an agreement that would allow industry to start work on these two challenging scientific missions as soon as possible. The contract covers the design, development, construction, test, launch and in-orbit commissioning of the two spacecraft.
Under the approved arrangements, Alcatel Space will be the Prime Contractor, and will also be in charge of the Planck Payload Module development and the Planck spacecraft assembly and testing. Astrium GmbH, whose extensive experience in cryostat technology has been proven in the ISO project, will be entrusted with the Herschel Payload Module (cryostat) development, as well as with the Herschel spacecraft assembly and testing. Alenia Spazio will be in charge of the Service Modules for both Herschel and Planck spacecraft.
However, the list of European companies taking part in this large industrial undertaking does not stop there. The subcontractors involved in this contract will cover all the 15 European countries which are members of ESA.
Background information on Herschel and Planck
Herschel and Planck will be launched together in 2007, but they will separate shortly after launch and will be operated independently. They will be located at a distance of 1.5 million kilometres from Earth.
Herschel will be the largest space telescope ever launched, with a 3.5 metre primary mirror. It will be the first space observatory covering the full far-infrared and submillimetre waveband. Its main goal is to study how the first stars and galaxies formed and evolved.
Planck will help to understand the origin and evolution of our Universe. It will analyse with the highest accuracy ever achieved the first light that filled the Universe after the Big Bang, the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation.