Belgium has had long-term links with the Vegetation instrument, with VITO, the Flemish government environmental research centre being responsible for the current Vegetation instrument’s data processing.
As it became clear future Spot satellites would have no capacity to fly further Vegetation instruments, users spoke up through their International Users Committee, arguing that extended data continuity was essential to fully exploit the global capacity of such a crucial spaceborne instrument. The idea of a dedicated minisatellite mission was taken up by the Belgian authorities, through the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office, Belspo.
The idea took shape of a mission made in Belgium, as the Proba minisatellite platform – produced by Belgium’s QinetiQ Space company – was identified as the best available fit for this new instrument.
With QinetiQ Space the overall mission prime contractor, VITO stepped up from its original data processing and distribution role to serve as principal investigator for the redesigned instrument while also taking responsibility for its user segment, overseeing the image data processing, archiving and distribution as well as the inflight calibration and validation.
QinetiQ Space subcontracted Belgian company OIP Sensor Systems to build the redesigned Vegetation instrument, with Belgian companies AMOS working on its mirrors and XenICs designing its detector array.
In addition, the satellite platform itself will be overseen from ESA’s Redu Centre in Belgium’s Ardennes forest, like the previous missions in the Proba series.