ARQUIMEA’s technology in the Copernicus Space Mission

August 3, 2023

The ambitious Copernicus space program is a European project that began its journey in the nineties. It is a constellation of Earth observation satellites and a global network of ground stations that work together to collect a wide variety of data and images about the Earth’s surface, atmosphere, oceans and ecosystems.

These data are used to monitor and analyze different environmental aspects, such as air quality, vegetation cover, ocean temperature, pollution levels and changes in ice cover, among others. In practice, the monitoring of these phenomena has contributed to natural disaster management and emergency response.

Copernicus began in 1998 with the launch of the first satellite of the ERS (European Remote Sensing) series, ERS-1, by the European Space Agency (ESA). However, the program in its current form was officially established by the European Commission in 2014, when the first satellite of the Sentinel series was launched. This ambitious program is now in its 25th year of providing accurate, up-to-date and easily accessible information to improve environmental management, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure public safety.


Behind this initiative, and together with leading technology companies, is ARQUIMEA, a leading company in the design and manufacture of optical systems, deployable systems, avionics and space-qualified microchips. In addition, ARQUIMEA has recently added to its portfolio the experience of Iberespacio, a company specialized in the design and manufacture of thermal structures and systems that has successfully completed more than 90 space missions. We have demonstrated our experience and capacity to face the challenges of space by providing technologies in 19 of the 21 Copernicus missions.


Manufacturing and integration of thermal systems, mechanisms and actuators for satellites:

At ARQUIMEA we have state-of-the-art facilities covering more than 5,000m2 of clean rooms and manufacturing areas dedicated to the creation and integration of systems for satellites. This state-of-the-art production capacity has allowed us to participate in 19 Copernicus missions, both in satellites and scientific instruments. In these missions we have played a relevant role in the European space industry with the manufacture of structures and thermal systems, as well as mechanisms and actuators for the retention and release (HDRM) of payloads.


Expertise in thermal systems for satellites

The thermal control systems for satellites have the objective of maintaining the entire structure and the equipment it houses within the temperature parameters specified at each moment of the mission. This process is critical for the correct operation of the satellite and its useful life.

ARQUIMEA has more than a decade of experience in the design, manufacturing and testing of thermal structures, systems and thermal hardware used in the most relevant international space missions. With more than 90 successful missions and more than 2,200 units launched among thermal subassemblies, thermo-structural panels, loop heat pipes, heat pipes, deployable radiators and thermal blankets.


Non-pyrotechnic REACT mechanisms and actuators on satellites (HDRM):

One of the highlights of our products for the space sector are non-pyrotechnic hold and release mechanisms (HDRM) based on shape memory technology (SMA). These mechanisms allow their integration and testing on the satellite on the ground, guaranteeing their correct functioning once deployed in space.


This is a major advantage over traditional pyrotechnic systems. In addition, these mechanisms have the capacity to withstand high pressures and extreme temperatures ranging from -90 to +125 degrees Celsius and are responsible for securing the payload during launch and deploying it once the satellite is in orbit.


Missions of the Copernicus constellation in which ARQUIMEA is present

The Sentinel satellites are a series of Earth observation satellites developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) in collaboration with the European Union (EU) as part of the Copernicus program. Each Sentinel satellite has a specific function and capability to collect data about our planet from space. There are six types of Sentinel satellites and ARQUIMEA is present in five of these six varieties.

  1. Sentinel-1: This satellite uses Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) to provide images of the earth’s surface regardless of weather conditions and cloud cover. ARQUIMEA has provided its thermal control system with Loop Heat Pipes and valves for precise thermal control of the laser telecommunications terminal and heat pipes for the platform thermal control system.
  2. Sentinel-2: These satellites capture high resolution multispectral images that are useful for monitoring vegetation, water quality, land cover, disaster management and other environmental purposes. In this case, ARQUIMEA has provided Loop Heat Pipes and valve for precise thermal control of the laser telecommunications terminal and MLI systems for the main MultiSpectral Instrument (MSI).
  3. Sentinel-3: This category constantly measures the oceans, sea surface temperature, wave height, changes in sea ice cover, vegetation and other parameters related to climate and the marine and terrestrial environment. ARQUIMEA has been in charge of developing the MLI, Heat Pipes for the thermal control subsystems, Heat Pipes for the platform thermal control system, thermal hardware for the Ocean and Land Color Instrument (OLCI) and the thermal control subsystem for the SLSTR instrument.
  4. Sentinel-4: This satellite is specifically designed for atmospheric and air quality monitoring. In this case, ARQUIMEA has once again provided its Heat Pipes for the thermal control of the UVN instrument.
  5. Sentinel-6: It is in charge of measuring the sea altitude, providing precise information on its level and evolution. ARQUIMEA has participated with its Heat Pipes for the platform’s thermal control system.
  6. CRISTAL: Thermal hardware of the mission’s instrument.
  7. CHIME: Radiator subsystem of the detector of the main instrument of the mission.
  8. ROSE-L: sandwich panel structure and complementary thermal control systems of the platform structure.
  9. CIMR: Mission instrument thermal hardware and deployable antenna mechanisms.
  10. CO2M: Heat Pipes for the platform thermal control system.


ARQUIMEA, a technological partner of reference in the space sector

ARQUIMEA has a team of professionals made up of more than 200 specialists including doctors, engineers and technicians, as well as state-of-the-art facilities for the integration of satellite systems.

Specifically, ARQUIMEA has provided Copernicus with a thermal structure, twelve thermal subsystems, 20 loop heat pipes, more than 250 heat pipes and several units of HDRM mechanisms.

Our main lines of activity for the space sector include the design and manufacture of structures, thermal systems, optical systems, deployable systems, avionics and space-qualified microchips. However, Copernicus is not the only reference space mission in which we participate. Our customers include international space agencies such as NASA and ESA and major space companies. We are currently leading the development of a constellation of 250 telecommunications satellites based on our own platform for the BeetleSat project, which will provide secure global connectivity in the coming years.