A British consortium will develop an innovative instrument for future weather satellites

Belfast university develops better weather forecast device

British researchers are developing innovative optical filter technology for Europe’s next MetOp satellite.

The Queen's University Belfast is part of a consortium of British companies that has won a contract by the European Space Agency (ESA) to design and build the next-generation Microwave Humidity Sounder – a key instrument aboard future weather satellites.

The new MicroWave Sounder will be largely upgraded compared with the existing instruments, and will offer significantly better performance. It will measure temperature and concentration of water vapour in the Earth’s atmosphere at different altitudes, sending data to the ground stations where they will be further fed into weather-forecasting computer models.

The device will rely on a Quasi Optical filter technology, developed by the Queen's University researchers, to separate the thermal emissions collected by the antenna from Earth.

During the project, the team from the Queen’s University’s Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) led by Dr Raymond Dickie, Dr Robert Cahill and Professor Vince Fusco, will build on a patented technology that stemmed from a PhD work conducted by Raymond Dickie.

“I am very pleased that Queen’s has been selected by ESA to develop and breadboard the microwave FSS devices which are the critical components that form the core of the radiometer instrumentation. This is a result of a decade long partnership between Queen's and ESA, the UK Space Agency, Astrium and RAL Space,” said Robert Cahill.

The biggest advantage of the new technology is that it allows combining multiple functions into one instrument, thus reducing costs by some £30m.

Astrium has been announced as the prime contractor working on the project during last week’s UK Space Conference in Glasgow. Depending on how many units will be purchased, the contract could be worth up to £150m.

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