Optical bench for the FLEX satellite, a new SENER contract in an ESA mission17/05/2018 (Spain)
SENER has won the contract to develop the optical bench for the main instrument of the European Space Agency (ESA) satellite FLEX, an acronym for ‘Fluorescence Explorer’. This is the eighth member of the ESA’s Earth Explorer family, which is scheduled for launch in 2022.
The optical bench or IOMS (Instrument Optical Module Structure) includes the Optical Bench Assembly (OBA), which houses and supports the optical instruments, and the thermal hardware (THW), responsible for keeping the module at a controlled temperature. The IOMS measures 1,089 mm (length) x 997 mm (width) x 467 mm (height) and weighs 57.1 kg. It allows the module’s temperature to be controlled, during operation of the instrument, at 22±1ºC (22ºC with an oscillation of ±1ºC), and also features calibration, decontamination, and survival modes with different thermal requirements.
As IOMS responsible, SENER will carry out the design, manufacture and test of this structure, with the project scheduled to run from 2018 until delivery of the equipment to the client in 2020. It is worth mentioning that SENER has developed equipment similar to the FLEX OBA for other space missions such as Herschel, SEOSat/Ingenio, Sentinel-5 and Proba 3.
The ‘Fluorescence Explorer’, or FLEX, will monitor the health of the Earth’s vegetation, measuring from space the weak fluorescence given off by plants when they convert sunlight, water and carbon dioxide into organic material, something that has not been possible until now.
FLEX will fly in tandem with one of the Sentinel-3 satellites of the Copernicus program, on which SENER has also participated, to make use of its optical and thermal sensors and provide an integrated set of data.
This new contract adds up to SENER’s numerous projects successfully carried out for the Space sector, where the company has more than 50 years of activity and is a key player. To date, SENER has handed more than 275 systems and equipment for satellites and space vehicles for space agencies in the US (NASA), Europe (ESA), Japan (JAXA) and Russia (Roscosmos), with 100 % reliability. SENER is one of the leading companies in the ESA's science programs through its engineering contributions; SENER has taken part in more than half of these missions.