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Thales Alenia Space wins Phase B contracts for Solar Orbiter METIS and SWA instruments

20 July 2011

Cannes, July 19, 2011 – Thales Alenia Space announced today that it has won the Phase B contracts from Italian space agency ASI for the entire METIS (Multi Element Telescope for Imaging and Spectroscopy) instrument and the Data Processing Unit (DPU) on the Solar Wind Analyser (SWA), both part of the Solar Orbiter Mission in the European Space Agency’s Cosmic Vision program.

The Solar Orbiter satellite will, for the first time, observe the Sun and its environment at a distance of just 0.28 Astronomical Units (i.e., 28% of the mean distance between the Earth and the Sun).

Through this latest contract, Thales Alenia Space consolidates its role on this major Sun exploration mission. The company is already contributing one of the key components, namely the heat shield that will protect the satellite and its instruments from temperatures up to 700°C when the Solar Orbiter spacecraft reaches the minimum distance from the Sun.

The METIS telescope will provide, for the first time, simultaneous imaging of the full corona in polarized visible light and in the ultraviolet light produced by the ionized hydrogen. In addition, it will provide images of the corona in the extreme ultraviolet light produced by the doubly ionized helium, enabling coronal spectroscopy. Scientists will use this data to help answer fundamental questions about the origin and the mechanisms of solar heating and acceleration of the solar wind.

METIS is supported by an Italian-led international scientific consortium; the Italian space agency contributes funding.

The Solar Wind Analyser, or SWA, will provide local measurement of the energy and velocity of electron, proton, helium nuclei and heavy ion fluxes produced by the Sun – fundamental information to help us understand the dynamics of the solar wind, which in turn has a significant impact on the Earth’s environment. The SWA instrument is supported by an international scientific consortium; Italian space agency ASI is funding the construction of its data processing unit.

Thales Alenia Space is the prime contractor for both METIS and the SWA DPU, leading a team from Italian industry including SELEX Galileo, ALTEC, AMDL and AIEM.

The flight instruments for the Solar Orbiter are scheduled for delivery in early 2015

About Thales Alenia Space

European leader in satellite systems and a major player in orbital infrastructures, Thales Alenia Space is a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Finmeccanica (33%). Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio embody the two groups’ “Space Alliance”. Thales Alenia Space sets the global standard in solutions for space telecoms, radar and optical Earth observation, defense and security, navigation and science. The company, which achieved revenues of Euro 2 billion in 2010, has a total of 7,200 employees located in 10 industrial sites in France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Belgium.

Thales Alenia Space Press Contacts

Sandrine Bielecki
Tel: +33 (0)4 92 92 70 94

Tiziana Ebano
Tel: +39 06 41512574

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