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ALTIUS team succeeds at mission preparatory phase activity

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The ALTIUS mission, initiated by the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy and currently an element of the ESA Earth Watch programme, aims to develop a micro-satellite dedicated to the monitoring of stratospheric ozone and other atmospheric trace gases that affect air quality and climate. The ALTIUS team at BIRA-IASB has just completed a successful mission preparatory activity and will now begin advanced development with the kick-off of the B2CD phase, culminating with the satellite launch in 2024.
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Since being implemented as a part of the ESA Earth Watch programme, the ALTIUS mission has undergone a successful completion of preparatory activities carried out by an international consortium of partners.

Succesful preparatory mission phase

The BIRA-IASB ALTIUS team provided critically important work on the mission during the preparatory mission phase B, including:

  • Creating and improving algorithmic code for the ALTIUS instrument data processor;
  • Scientific leadership and guidance through the Mission Advisory Group;
  • Crucial, irreplaceable scientific expertise -to ESA as well as other consortium members- for tackling technical and scientific issues that have arisen throughout the preparatory phase and with the pre-development of the instrument;
  • Thorough evaluation of the mission performance;
  • Benefits and improvements to the overall mission through ongoing ALTIUS-related scientific research being carried out at BIRA-IASB;
  • Leadership and innovation for the global science community in the field of satellite retrievals;
  • Guidance and management of the progress of the mission through coordination with ESA, industrial partners, and international research teams;
  • Scientific journal articles providing the general scientific context of the project, design of the payload and platform systems, and preliminary data and performance assessments (Fussen et al. 2019, Vanhamel et al. 2019).

Advanced development phase

Toward the end of 2020, the ALTIUS mission kicked off the advanced development phase B2CD. The BIRA-IASB team will be rigorously involved through a number of activities. In addition to a continuation of the activities and responsibilities from the preparatory phase, the team will also be responsible for:

  • The design, development, and validation of the End-to-End Performance Simulator components based on those developed in the preparatory phase;
  • A thorough scientific validation of the level-2 data processor;
  • An updated performance assessment of the ALTIUS mission;
  • An instrument calibration and validation activity.


Following the successful completion of these activities, in parallel with the instrument development and other efforts carried out by consortium partners, the ALTIUS satellite will launch at the end of the B2CD phase, currently scheduled for 2024.



  • Fussen, D., Baker, N., Debosscher, J., Dekemper, E., Demoulin, P., Errera, Q., Franssens, G., Mateshvili, N., Pereira, N., Pieroux, D., and Vanhellemont, F. (2019). The ALTIUS atmospheric limb sounder. Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer, 238, A106542. Open Access Logo
  • Vanhamel, J., Dekemper, E., Voloshinov, V.B., Neefs, E., and Fussen, D. (2019). Electrical bandwidth testing of an AOTF transducer as a function of the optical diffraction efficiency. Journal of the Optical Society of America A, 36(8) 1361-1366, Open Access Logo
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Figure 2 caption (legend)
Early mission logo of satellite mission ALTIUS (Atmospheric Limb Tracker for Investigation of the Upcoming Stratosphere).
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Figure 3 caption (legend)
Early illustration of the ALTIUS Satellite (Atmospheric Limb Tracker for the Investigation of the Upcoming Stratosphere).
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