Matra Marconi Space (MMS) has received a €791 million ($798 million) contract from the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (Eumetsat) to build three polar-orbiting Metop satellites.

Metop is the first European polar-orbiting satellite dedicated to operational meteorology and climate monitoring. The first will be launched in 2003.

The Metops will go into orbit at about 840km, at a lower altitude than that of Eumetsat's Meteosat satellites, which are in geostationary orbit at about 36,000km. The Metop satellites' sounding and imagery data will complement that provided by the Meteosats.

MMS will lead a team of companies, including DaimlerChrysler Aerospace, MMS UK and Alenia Aerospazio.

The 4.5t Metop spacecraft will be based on the platform developed for the Spot 5 commercial remote-sensing satellite series and ESA's Envisat.

Source: Flight International