New European satellite to monitor the oceans and environment
Carrying four Earth-observation instruments on board, a satellite lifted off on Tuesday on its mission to bring us a more comprehensive picture of our planet, as part of Europe's Copernicus environment programme.
Developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), this satellite (named Sentinel-3A) is the part of a fleet of satellites designed to gather data and images to support the Copernicus programme.
The 1,150 kg satellite was carried into orbit by a Rockot launcher from Plesetsk, Russia at 18:57 CET (20:57 local time). The first stage burn (about five minutes after liftoff) and the second one 70 minutes later put the satellite onto its planned orbit about 815km above the Earth. Then, 79 minutes into the launch, the satellite separated from the launch vehicle.
The Kiruna station in Sweden received the first signal from the satellite 92 minutes after the launch. Upon receiving it, personnel at ESA's ESOC operations centre in Darmstadt set up telemetry links and attitude control, thereby allowing them to access the status of the satellite.
After the three-day early orbit phase, personnel will verify the operational status of all satellite elements, and subsequently calibrate them to commission the satellite. The mission proper will begin in five months' time.
This mission is the third of six families of dedicated missions making up the core of the Copernicus environmental monitoring network. Equipped with a set of cutting-edge sensors, the Sentinel satellites will provide data used to monitor the environment and support civil security activities.
As Sentinel-3A moves over the oceans, it will record the temperature, colour and height of the sea surface, as well as the thickness of the sea ice. These observations will be used to monitor climate change and in specific applications like the detection of marine pollution and biological productivity.
Over land, the satellite will create maps for land use, monitor the condition of vegetation, measure the heights of rivers and lakes and even help in monitoring wildfires.
"This is the third of the Sentinel satellites launched in less than two years – and it is certainly a special moment. It also marks a new era for the Copernicus Services, with Sentinel-3 providing a whole range of new data with unprecedented coverage of the oceans," said Volker Liebig, Director of ESA's Earth Observation Programmes.
The Sentinel-3B – the satellite's twin – will be launched next year. Once compiled, the data gathered by all the Sentinel satellites will be freely available to all users worldwide.
Further Information: www.esa.int/../Copernicus