On 23 November representatives of ESA and the Italian company Alenia Spazio signed a contract in Turin to cover the design, development, and pre and post-launch support for the GOCE satellite, due to be launched towards the end of 2005.
This contract, which is for a total of €149 million, also covers work that will be given to the major sub-contractors. These are Astrium GmbH, Germany; Alcatel Space Industries, France: and Onera, the French National Aerospace Research Establishment:
GOCE, which stands for Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation, is the first Earth Explorer Core mission in ESA’s Earth Observation Envelope Programme. Its main objective is to provide a highly accurate and high-resolution map of the Earth’s gravity field. Once available, this unique information will help scientists to improve their understanding of the structure and internal dynamics of the Earth’s interior. One of the valuable applications of this knowledge will be to increase insight into the circulation of the oceans and their influence on our climate.
Now that the contract has been awarded, work can begin on designing and developing the satellite and the instruments that will be used to supply the data and the measurements to map the Earth’s gravity field. Once in orbit, the GOCE mission is expected to last for 30 months.