The European Space Agency (ESA) is teaming up with Airbus Defence and Space in developing the sixth Sentinel satellite that will survey the changes in the level of the oceans around the world.
The two parties signed the agreement – valued at €177 million ($199 million) – during the 36th International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment in Berlin.
According to reports, the deal is for the creation of the Jason-CS / Sentinel-6A Satellite as part of the European Commission's (EC) Copernicus Program aimed at collecting information on Earth's environment.
"Jason-CS / Sentinel-6 will be the reference mission to continue the measurements for sea-level rise. These measurements are crucial to our understanding of the effects that global warming has on our oceans," ESA Director of Earth Observation Volker Liebig said.
The agreement also includes the option of developing a sister satellite called Sentinel-6B, which could be activated once the program subscription with the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) is completed.
Dr. Michael Menking, the head of Airbus Defence and Space's Earth Observation, Navigation & Science division, said the Sentinel-6A Satellite program highlights the company's leading expertise in Earth observation satellites.
The Sentinel-6A mission will launch in 2020, with the primary objective of ensuring the continuity of a data-set that began in 1992. It will carry on the survey currently being conducted by the Sentinel-3 mission and the CryoSat Satellite.
Recently gathered data reveals that sea levels are continuing to rise by more than 3mm per year. It is believed that this phenomenon is caused by the run-off of water from melting land ice and the warming of the oceans.
The Topex/Poseidon mission, launched by NASA and the National Center for Space Studies (CNES) of France, was the first to measure the world's ocean surface topography. It was later renamed Jason.
Jason-3, the latest version of the program, is scheduled to launch in July. The Sentinel-6A mission will then take over the survey duties after five years.
Member nations of the European Commission have committed €7.5 billion ($8.4 billion) to the Copernicus Program and the Sentinel missions so far.