February 16, 2021

InCubed co-funds Belgian Aerospacelab to develop Multispectral Companion Mission

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ESA’s Investing in Industrial Innovation (InCubed) programme will focus on the development, launch and demonstration of the first Multispectral Companion Satellite prototype of Aerospacelab’s Multispectral Companion Mission whose aim is to provide daily global coverage and commercially focused multispectral data products within a constellation architecture.

The contract was signed during a virtual event on Friday 12 February 2021 by ESA Director of Earth Observation Programmes Josef Aschbacher and the CEO of the Belgian company Aerospacelab Benoit Deper. The event was attended by Thomas Dermine, Belgium Secretary of State, and the Belgium Delegation (including Frank Monteny, the Head of the Belgium Delegation and Steven Bogaerts, the Belgium Programme Board for the Earth Observation delegate). ESA representatives included Giuseppe Borghi, Head of the φ-Lab, Amanda Regan, Head of the Invest Office in the φ-Lab and the InCubed Programme Manager.

The development, launch and demonstration of the first Multispectral Companion Satellite prototype of Aerospacelab’s Multispectral Companion Mission has become the latest activity under ESA’s InCubed programme. The Multispectral Companion Mission (MSCM) is one of two main constellations that Aerospacelab is developing to enhance efficiency and make geospatial intelligence actionable and affordable. Under the InCubed contract, Aerospacelab will develop an In-Orbit prototype.

Representatives from ESA and the InCubed programme, Aerospacelab, Belgium Secretary of State, and the Belgian delegation joined the virtual signing event. On signing the contract Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes and the agency’s next Director General, said:

‘’ESA is excited to support the European Earth Observation commercial sector and we are looking forward to working with Aerospacelab to develop the first Multispectral Companion Prototype Satellite. The development is commercially focused and is co-funded by the Belgium contribution to InCubed and Aerospacelab. This is one of the biggest InCubed contracts so far, providing an important contribution to the development of the European commercial EO landscape.’’

This demonstration mission will comprise the first satellite of Aerospacelab’s constellation. The aim is to provide a daily global coverage with commercially focused multispectral data products that strive to reach Sentinel-2 specifications for parameters like spectral bands, MTF, SNR, resolution, within the constraints of a cost driven approach. Additional bands will also be investigated, considering the studies performed for Sentinel-2 Next Generation.

The InCubed activity will focus on developing the first prototype satellite whilst ESA’s General Support Technology Programme will develop the satellite’s payload.

Steven Bogaerts from the Belgian delegation said: “Aerospacelab is a young and very promising Belgian company with many brilliant and innovative ideas. With its support to the Multi Spectral Companion Mission (MSCM), the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO) wants also to help Aerospacelab in reaching their ground-breaking goals.’’

Head of ESA’s Φ-lab Invest Office Amanda Regan added: “ESA’s InCubed programme is delighted to welcome Aerospacelab into the programme and would like to thank the Belgian delegation and Aerospacelab for co-funding this new commercially focused activity.”

The ambitious goal is – for some selected applications – to ultimately achieve interoperability with existing Sentinel-2 data products (as well as those to Sentinel-2 Next Generation) and offer strategic complementarity by fusing data sources between Sentinel-2 and this companion constellation.

Founder and CEO of Aerospacelab, Benoit Deper, said: “Copernicus was built for global environment and security monitoring and Aerospacelab aims to complement this with a constellation of multi-spectral satellites. We see this InCubed activity as an important first step to de-risk the first satellite. We are delighted to work with ESA and we are looking forward to exploring possible synergies between existing satellites and smaller spacecraft.”

Aerospacelab is a Belgian company with expertise in satellite hardware and data processing. A mixture of existing, off-the-shelf and new components will be used to build the first satellite prototype which Aerospacelab will integrate across the space, ground and user segments. More information about Aerospacelab can be found here.

To know more: Aerospacelab Press Release, Belspo – Belgian Federal Science Policy Office, Sentinel-2

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