A Preferred Partner of ESA 

A Preferred Partner of ESA 

Airbus Defence and Space has worked with the European Space Agency in Earth Observation for over 25 years, from the first radar satellite, ERS-1, to the current MetOp Second Generation programme, with six satellites currently under construction.

In-Orbit Missions


Airbus Defence and Space: Instrument Lead
Launched: 02 November 2009

The European Space Agency’s SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity) Earth Explorer Mission is measuring the soil moisture and ocean salinity on a global scale using its radiometric instrument, called MIRAS (Microwave Imaging Radiometer with Aperture Synthesis), built by Airbus Defence and Space in Spain. MIRAS represents a significant technological challenge as it uses innovative measurement techniques never before deployed in space. With these receptors, SMOS possesses a field of view of 1,000 kilometres and will capture up to 80 different measurements.


Airbus Defence and Space: Prime Contractor
Launched: 08 April 2010

The CryoSat-2 ESA Earth Explorer mission is providing accurate observations of the ice masses at the poles and monitoring of their rate of change. This is done by radar altimeter measurements of the distance between the Earth’s surface – both sea level and freeboard ice elevation – and the satellite to give a subsequent calculation of the thickness of the polar ice sheets and floating sea ice.


Airbus Defence and Space: Platform Lead
Launched: 17 March 2009
Mission completed: 11 November 2013

GOCE (the Gravity-Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer) “surfed” the Earth’s gravitational field to investigate the planet’s interior from an altitude of about 250 kilometres. The data collected is being used to study the structure of the Earth’s interior and, at the same time, facilitate oceanographic investigations.


Airbus Defence and Space: Prime Contractor
Launched: 22 November 2013

The ESA Earth Explorer mission Swarm is a three-satellite constellation that allows the magnetic field to be measured in several locations at the same time to provide the best ever survey of the geomagnetic field, and the first global representation of its variation on time scales from an hour to several years. Swarm is simultaneously measuring both the internal field sources in the Earth and the ionospheric-magnetospheric current systems.


Airbus Defence and Space: Prime Contractor
Launched: 22 August 2018

Aeolus, the European Space Agency’s Earth Explorer mission, provides global observations of three-dimensional wind fields, which will improve current wind-profiling and thus atmospheric modelling and analysis techniques – benefiting operational weather forecasting and climate research. Aeolus creates a wind profile showing the relative strength of winds at different altitudes, as well as moisture and dust levels in the atmosphere. 

More on Aeolus here

Missions in development


Airbus Defence and Space: Prime Contractor
Status: In development

The sixth ESA Earth Explorer mission, EarthCARE (Earth Clouds, Aerosols and Radiation Explorer), will focus on clouds, tiny particles in the atmosphere – aerosols – and their influence on atmospheric radiation. Among other things, EarthCARE will draw up vertical profiles of natural and man-made aerosols, register the distribution of water and ice and their transport by clouds, and investigate the interrelationships between clouds and precipitation and their effects on radiation.


Airbus Defence and Space: Prime Contractor
Status: In development

BIOMASS is the seventh mission selected by ESA as part of its Living Planet programme and addresses fundamental questions on the status and dynamics of the Earth’s forests. Using a unique space-borne P-band (435 MHz) Synthetic Aperture Radar instrument, the mission will map the global distribution of biomass over a multi-year mission, allowing much better characterisation of changes in global carbon flux. The BIOMASS mission will provide, for the first time, systematically-acquired global scale maps of biomass and, more importantly, changes in biomass due to forest loss (from logging/burning) and forest regrowth.

Earth observation



SSOT - FaSat



Capacity building

ESA preferred partner

Tomorrow’s Weather and Future Climate

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