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Sofradir wins contract for Italian space mission

21 Jan 2009

Paris, France, January 19, 2009 - Sofradir, a developer and manufacturer of advanced infrared detectors for military, space and industrial applications, announced today that it has signed a contract with Galileo Avionica of Italy, a worldwide supplier of space equipment and member of the Finmeccanica Group.

"Sofradir won this contract in an open and competitive bid, thereby confirming that our product offering for space applications is in a class above the rest," said Philippe Bensussan, CEO at Sofradir. "This contract also gives us the opportunity to further extend the space qualification of our Mercury Telluride Cadmium technology to the visible spectrum."

Sofradir will supply Galileo Avionica with its Saturn product, Sofradir's 1000x256 30 micrometre pitch Short Wave InfraRed (SWIR) detectors. Galileo Avionica will use these in an Italian-led satellite programme called PRISMA (Precursor Hyperspectral Mission Application).

PRISMA is a system of earth observation instruments known as hyperspectral imagers. The PRISMA orbit will be sun-synchronous with a mean altitude of 700 Km at the equator.

Sofradir's role in PRISMA is to scan portions of the Earth and provide images from the visible to infrared. The hyperspectral information will substantially increase information about the chemical make-up of objects, a first for this environmental observation program. The data collected is expected to help researchers around the world address the quality and protection of the environment, sustainable development, and climate change.

Andrea Cisbani, PRISMA project manager at Galileo Avionica said: "We selected Sofradir because the company has shown that it is the most experienced, reliable and competitively priced European manufacturer for this kind of detector." This contract cements a long-standing business relationship between Sofradir and Galileo Avionica that dates back 12 years.

Under the contract, Sofradir will develop a specific and hermetic package suited for passive cooling and will manufacture two types of detectors: Very Near IR (VNIR), sensitive from 0.4 to 1 micrometer and SWIR sensitive from 0.9 to 2.5 micrometers. The flight models will be delivered to Galileo Avionica in 2010.

Sofradir's Saturn detector is a Mercury Cadmium Telluride (MCT/HgCdTe) array, a technology that offers the highest performance for IR object-identification. It has a length of 30mm, and the largest IR detector in Sofradir's product range. The detector includes 256 lines of 1000 pixels at 30 micrometer pitch. A different gain can be applied to each line, making this detector especially adapted to spectroscopy and hyperspectral imaging. In addition, a complementary technological process allows it to extend the responsivity down to the visible spectrum.

Sofradir is involved in a growing number of satellite and space missions, covering applications such as earth mapping, environment and disaster monitoring, and planet exploration. Sofradir's MCT IR detectors are in orbit in the Helios II and Venus Express satellites. Its detectors for SGLI/G-COM (Second Generation GLI/Global Change Observation Mission) and for GMES/Sentinel-2 are now in production.

About Sofradir

Sofradir develops and manufactures advanced infrared detectors (IR) for military, space and commercial applications. It specializes in cooled IR detectors based on a sophisticated high performance technology, Mercury Cadmium Telluride (MCT), and its vast product portfolio of scanning and staring arrays covers the entire infrared spectrum. Sofradir also offers QWIP detectors developed in cooperation with Thales.

Sofradir owns two subsidiaries: ULIS, of which GE Equity has 15 percent ownership, and Sofradir EC. ULIS designs and manufactures low cost uncooled amorphous silicon infrared detectors for commercial applications. Sofradir EC develops and supplies infrared equipment for scientific, industrial, public safety, security and defense applications.

Sofradir and ULIS' customers include the US Army, Thales, Sagem, Selex, Thales Alenia Space, ESA (European Space Agency) and FLIR Systems.

Sofradir's headquarters are located in Châtenay-Malabry, near Paris, France. Its manufacturing facilities and those of ULIS are located in Veurey-Voroize, near Grenoble, in France. Sofradir EC is based in Fairfield, NJ (USA). Sofradir, ULIS and Sofradir EC employ more than 500 people. Total 2008 sales are expected to be in the range of EUR 120 - 130 million (USD 150 - 160 million).

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