Press Release

Queen’s University Develops Key Technology for Europe’s Next Generation Weather Satellites

By SpaceRef Editor
July 24, 2013
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Queen’s University Belfast has been appointed part of a UK group who will build one of the key instruments on Europe’s next-generation of weather satellites.

The research, by Queen’s University’s Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT), on Frequency Selective Surface (FSS) structures has led to major advances in the design and manufacture of the next generation of Earth observation satellites. The new technology makes it possible to combine different functions into one instrument reducing costs by £30million.

The UK’s Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, announced last week at the UK Space Conference in Glasgow that the UK has secured the key MetOp Weather satellite contract.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has appointed satellite services provider Astrium UK to make a follow-on technology to the Microwave Humidity Sounder (MHS), which feeds data into multi-day forecasts. Depending on how many units are purchased, the contract could be worth up to £150m (170m euros). The new instrument, to be known as the MicroWave Sounder (MWS), will have significantly improved performance.

MWS production will be led from Astrium’s Portsmouth facility, but key contributions will also come from Queen’s University Belfast, SEA Ltd, JCR Systems Ltd, and the Rutherford Appleton Lab in Oxfordshire

Queen’s University’s Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) is developing the Quasi Optical filter technology which will be used in the microwave receiver of the instrument to separate the thermal emissions collected by the antenna from Earth. The team from ECIT working on the technology is led by Dr Raymond Dickie, Dr Robert Cahill and Professor Vince Fusco.

The new MWS instrument will measure temperature and water content at different altitudes. It is fundamental information needed by the computer models that look at what the weather is likely to be several days ahead.

Dr Robert Cahill from ECIT at Queen’s said: “I am very pleased that Queen’s has been selected by ESA to develop and breadboard the microwave FSS devices which are the critical components that form the core of the radiometer instrumentation. This is a result of a decade long partnership between Queen’s and ESA, the UK Space Agency, Astrium and RAL Space to exploit the patented PhD research work of Raymond Dickie who is a key member of the project team”

A statement from Astrium said: “Queen’s University has made a significant and recognised contribution to the growth of the UK space industry by developing their new technologies. Queen’s research contributed directly to the UK space industry securing a multi-million pound contract for advanced instrument development.”

SpaceRef staff editor.