SMILE is a joint science mission between ESA and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which aims to investigate the interaction between Earth’s protective shield — the magnetosphere — and the supersonic solar wind. The SMILE satellite consists of a platform, provided by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and a fully independent Payload Module, provided by ESA.
The PLM hosts the four customer furnished science instruments* from Canada, the UK and China, the PLM Control and Mass Memory Unit, the PLM Power Distribution Unit and the X-band communication system used to downlink all science data. During the study phase, Thales Alenia Space in the UK will work with the ESA team to define and optimise the Payload Module, including the structural and thermal solution, definition of the supporting PLM equipment, accommodation of the four science instruments and the delivery of all science data to the ground.
With a planned launch in 2021 from French Guiana, the two ton satellite will enter a Highly Elliptic Orbit (HEO) with an apogee of around 120,000 km over the Earth’s North Pole. Following a competitive evaluation prior to PDR (Preliminary Design Review), one of the competing designs will be down-selected for the SMILE mission.
If successful, Thales Alenia Space in the UK will procure the equipment, assemble, integrate and test the Payload Module in the UK’s future National Satellite Testing Facility. This world class facility, due to open in 2020, has been awarded funding by the UK Government’s flagship Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to boost the UK’s space capabilities for the design and build of more complex space instruments and technologically advanced satellites.
Ben Olivier, the CEO of Thales Alenia Space in the UK, noted that the company is proud to team with ESA experts and to contribute to the SMILE mission, which expects to make an important contribution to our understanding of space weather and, in particular, the physical processes taking place during the continuous interaction between the solar wind and the magnetosphere. This contract reflects Thales Alenia Space’s strategy of growing its European footprint and is fully in line with market trends and growth dynamics. For Thales Alenia Space, this is a significant milestone in the recognition of the company’s capability as a Prime contractor in the UK for major space missions. The SMILE design definition phase is Thales Alenia Space first opportunity to work directly, as a Prime in the UK, with the engineering teams of the ESA Science Directorate and also demonstrates the confidence and trust placed in Thales Alenia Space in the UK and its teams of highly skilled engineers.
*The four SMILE instruments are CFI provided by ESA Member or Participating States (Ultra Violet Imager (UVI) and Soft X-ray Imager (SXI)), and CAS (Magnetometer (MAG) and Light Ion Analyser (LIA)).