Collaboration between the UK and France has resulted in the development of an advanced instrument that will set new standards of accuracy in short-term weather prediction.
Using high-performance infra-red detectors made in Southampton, it will improve short-range weather forecasts by monitoring atmospheric instability and cloud structure — and analyse the content of the Earth’s atmosphere, detecting and tracking pollutants around the globe.
Graham Turnock, CEO of the UK Space Agency (www.gov.uk/ukspaceagency
), said: “The UK space sector is an export success story, generating a third of its income from international trade and creating growth and jobs across the country.
“As this programme demonstrates, the strong working relationship between the British and French space industries is successfully turning future technology into reality.”
The ‘Infra-red Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer New Generation’ (IASI-NG) instrument is an example of international collaboration — in this case, between Leonardo, Airbus Defence & Space and the UK and French space agencies. Its first flight is scheduled for 2022, aboard the European satellite MetOp-SG-A.
The UK Space Agency invested around £8.5 million in the detector programme supporting Leonardo to further develop the technology involved and secure participation in a major space programme for the first time in a decade.
Alain Gleyzes, head of Earth Observation Projects at the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), said: “Thanks to co-operation between UKSA, CNES and the French industry, the socio-economic benefits of the innovative IASI-NG instrument will be substantial.
“As a pioneer in Earth Observation, CNES is using its expertise in atmospheric sounding to provide a new standard in atmospheric measurements and to support the development of applications based on space data.”
The UK is a world leader in Earth Observation technologies, which are growing at a rate of 25% each year and currently support industrial activities worth around £92 billion.
Earth Observation is becoming increasingly accessible, and further opportunities will arise with the advent of new technologies and uses, with ever-increasing amounts of data being produced.
In March, the UK Space Agency said that every £1 of public spending generates up to £4 in value for the recipients in the space industry, with additional benefits to the UK economy.