FLEX optical bench

FLEX mission. SENER is to develop the optical bench (Instrument Optical Module Structure, IOMS) 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 IOMS 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 at 22∓1ºC during operation of the instrument and also features calibration, decontamination, and survival modes with different thermal requirements.

SENER will be responsible for designing, manufacturing, and testing 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.

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