ESA Selects Airbus for $350 Million CRISTAL Mission

An artist rendition of a CRISTAL satellite. Photo: Airbus

The European Space Agency (ESA) selected Airbus to develop and build the Copernicus Polar Ice and Snow Topography Mission (CRISTAL) — a contract worth approximately $350.4 million (300 million euros). The mission will use two satellites, and it is one of six new missions to expand the current capabilities of the Copernicus space component.

With launch planned in 2027, CRISTAL will carry a multi-frequency altimeter that will measure sea ice thickness and ice sheet elevations. The mission will support maritime operations in polar oceans, as well as applications related to coastal and inland waters and the observation of ocean topography.

Airbus Defence and Space is leading a consortium involving companies from 19 countries to deliver the project, including Thales Alenia Space to provide the IRIS Interferometric Radar Altimeter.

Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Space Systems at Airbus said: “With a tenth of Earth’s land surface permanently covered by ice sheets or glaciers, the cryosphere is an important regulator of global climate. Data from the Airbus-built CRISTAL predecessor, CryoSat, has shown that ice losses from Antarctica have increased global sea levels by 7.6 mm since 1992, with two fifths of this rise (3.0 mm) coming in the last five years. CRISTAL will continue these vital measurements, a key climate change indicator.”

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