€6.7m space contract for Sofradir

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Sofradir has signed a €6.7m contract with Astrium SAS, a worldwide supplier of satellites and space equipment.

Sofradir will supply a custom-made three-band Short Wave Infrared (SWIR) detector for the Multi-Spectral Instrument (MSI), an earth observation instrument onboard the Sentinel-2 satellite. The detector will be used to offer more discrimination of trees, crops, and other environmental elements, including the density of humid air. It is designed and screened to function for the in-orbit lifetime for each of the two Sentinel-2 satellites. Each will run for just over seven years.

'The reliability of Sofradir's technology for 15µm pixel pitch detectors and our experience in space project management were the crucial factors in Astrium's decision to choose Sofradir from among other European suppliers,' said Philippe Bensussan, CEO at Sofradir

Under the contract, Sofradir will develop and manufacture a three-band SWIR detector from 1.3 to 2.3 micrometre wavelengths for multi-spectral analysis that will be delivered to Astrium SAS in 2010. The contract is being funded by the European Union and the European Space Agency (ESA).

The three-band SWIR detector uses Sofradir's Mercury Cadmium Telluride (MCT/HgCdTe) focal plane array, a technology that is space qualified. The detector includes three linear arrays of 1,298 pixels at 15µm pitch. Each array is sensitive to one waveband that is centred on 1.4, 1.6 and 2.2µm, respectively. Since the arrays are hybridised on the same readout circuit, this results in very accurate relative positioning. In other words, all three arrays will scan the same object using the same pixel.

Sofradir is involved in a growing number of satellite and space missions, covering applications such as earth mapping, environment and disaster monitoring, and planet exploration. Sofradir's MCT IR detectors are in orbit in the Helios II and Venus Express satellites and will soon be deployed in the SPIRALE satellite. Its detectors for SGLI/G-COM (Second Generation GLI/Global Change Observation Mission) are now ready for flight model production.