NL-based R&D company developing the calibration transponder for satellite that measures and monitors carbon stored in our planet’s forests over time

A multi-national effort with partners in Canada, Luxembourg, Italy and Ireland will work together to develop a calibration transponder in St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada, for the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Biomass Mission.  ESA has contracted Airbus Defence and Space to lead the satellite development, while C-CORE has been subcontracted by Airbus to design, develop, build and install the Biomass transponder. The total value of the contract is $9.6M CAD.

The Biomass Mission addresses one of the most fundamental components in the Earth system: the status and dynamics of tropical forests. 80 percent of the world’s biomass is located in the tropical forests. The Biomass project will measure carbon stored in our planet’s forests and its evolution over time.

The calibration transponder, measuring over 8 meters in diameter, will receive signals from the satellite and transmit a reference signal to ensure the accurate calibration of onboard sensors. This information will help improve current assessments and future projections of the earth’s carbon cycle. C-CORE was chosen to lead the calibration transponder project building on the success of similar projects. It will be built at C-CORE’s facility in St. John’s, NL and installed at a remote location specially selected to meet the mission needs.

“This contract is exciting news for C-CORE,” said Paul Griffin, President and CEO, C-CORE.  “We have built significant knowledge in the space industry here at C-CORE and have earned a worldwide reputation as a leading expert in this area. It’s incredibly satisfying to contribute to a project that is important to all of us – understanding and protecting our environment. And we’re doing it right here in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

C-CORE is the prime contractor, providing project management and lead technical development of the transponder. A team has been assembled including Ingegneria Dei Sistemi S.p.A. (IDS) (Italy), HITEC (Luxembourg), and Arup (Ireland). This group has extensive combined experience in SAR signals relating to precision transponder design, radio frequency hardware design and construction, digital hardware design, real-time processing, antenna/positioner design and manufacture. The team is also experienced in installing and operating RF transceiver equipment, including precision calibration transponders in remote locations and developing transponders to the level of precision required for this procurement.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates Airbus’ significant and growing contribution to Canadian jobs and innovation,” said Simon Jacques, President of Airbus Defence and Space Canada. “Collaboration between Airbus, the European Space Agency and C-CORE will enhance the quality of data available to researchers and result in better global environmental outcomes.”

The work will be completed in three phases over 4 years, creating jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador, while continue to develop local expertise in space technology.

This contract is awarded under the Cooperation Agreement between Canada and the European Space Agency (ESA), which enables Canadian organizations to bid on tenders for contracts related to ESA activities and programs in which Canada participates. As the only non-European cooperating state of ESA, Canada benefits significantly from this unique agreement, from business opportunities and job creation to sharing knowledge and skills.


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Deirdre Greene Lono