New satellite aims to help see the forest for the trees

A new satellite which will 'weigh' the world's forests is being built at a Stevenage space technology firm.

Airbus Space and Defence is currently building the European Space Agency (ESA) Biomass probe.

Airbus Space and Defence is building the new Biomass satellite for the ESA Credit: Airbus Space and Defence

Biomass is due to launch next year and will measure forest biomass to assess terrestrial carbon stocks and fluxes for five years.

The spacecraft will carry innovative technology to provide exceptionally accurate maps of tropical, temperate and boreal forest biomass that are not obtainable by ground measurement techniques.

Assembly of the ESA forest measuring-satellite had been delayed due to Covid-19, but coronavirus safety measures mean spacecraft production is underway.

The pandemic also delayed the launch of the Stevenage-built ExoMars Rover Rosalind Franklin.

During April and May 2020, the Airbus team put in place a digital solution to enable collaboration with ESA and suppliers, ensuring progress continued on the development of the satellite’s mechanical structure.

Airbus teams finalised the structure build in the second half of 2020 and integration hardware onto the Structure Model Platform was completed in early January 2021. The Structure Model is now at Airbus Toulouse for its mechanical test campaign.

The images were taken last month by the Solar Orbiter Credit: Solar Orbiter/ESA

The satellite is the latest to be produced in Stevenage. Last year a probe built by Airbus Space and Defence captured the closest images ever taken of the Sun