26 January 2010


Sofradir wins €2.5m follow-on IR detector contract for earth observation

Sofradir of Châtenay-Malabry, near Paris, France, which manufactures mercury cadmium telluride (HgCdTe, or MCT) infrared detectors for military, space and industrial applications, has won a further €2.5m contract to provide a second batch of 15 micron-pitch multi-linear short-wave infrared (SWIR) arrays for the space-borne Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) initiative, which is a joint undertaking of the European Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA).

The order follows a previous €6.7m contract from satellite and space equipment supplier Astrium SAS in November 2008 to custom-design a three-band SWIR for the GMES Sentinel-2 mission. Sofradir says that the high levels of reliability and performance achieved with this first batch led to the new order. The MCT-based IR detectors are replacing competing technology previously used in European space projects. The latest multi-linear SWIR arrays are for the Multi-Spectral Instrument (MSI), an earth observation instrument onboard each of the Sentinel-2 satellites. Sofradir will start delivering flight models for the two Sentinel satellites by mid 2010.

Sentinel-2 will provide a powerful and fully operational information capability in the frame of the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) initiative (a joint undertaking of the European Commission and the European Space Agency). The mission is designed as an optical high-resolution multi-spectral mission to provide sustained operational land services for a period of at least 15 years, involving a series of several satellites.

The Sentinel-2 Multi-Spectral Instrument (MSI) is a filter-based push-broom imager that provides imagery in 13 spectral channels with spatial resolutions ranging from 10m to 60m and fast revisit allowed by a 290km swath width (the strip of Earth scanned by the satellite). The instrument is required to operate over a wide spectral range extending from the visible near-infrared (VNIR, 400–1100nm) to the short-wave infrared (SWIR, 1100–2500nm) spectral range.

The firm is involved in a growing number of satellite and space missions, covering applications such as earth mapping, environment and disaster monitoring, meteorology and planet exploration. Sofradir’s MCT IR detectors are in orbit in the French military earth observation satellites Helios IIA and IIB (the latter was launched last December). Performance tests in early January show that the IR detectors are performing well. Sofradir’s IR detectors are also being used on the European Space Agency (ESA) Venus Express satellites and the French MoD SPIRALE satellites. The firm’s detectors for Japanese space agency (JAXA) SGLI/G-COM (Second Generation GLI/Global Change Observation Mission) are currently in the engineering model phase.

See related item:

Sofradir wins MCT detector contract from Galileo Avionica

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