Sentinel-2A, Europe´s next Copernicus satellite in Space, is being readied by engineers from Airbus Defence and Space, the world´s second largest space company, for a 23 June 2015 lift-off from Kourou, French Guiana. Sentinel-2A will be the second satellite of Europe’s environmental monitoring programme Copernicus to be launched. Copernicus is an operational programme led by the European Commission (EC) in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA). The Copernicus Sentinels supply remote sensing data of the Earth to deliver key operational services related to environment and security.
Offering ‘colour vision’ for the Copernicus programme, Sentinel-2A will deliver optical images from the visible to short-wave infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum. From an altitude of 786 kilometres the 1.1 ton satellite will deliver images in 13 spectral bands with a resolution of 10, 20 or 60 metres and a uniquely large swath width of 290 km. The optical design of the Multi Spectral Instrument (MSI) has been optimised to achieve state-of-the-art imaging quality across its very wide field of view. With its multispectral imager and wide swath coverage, the Sentinel-2 mission not only offers continuity, but with its more than 100 km increase in swath width, also expands on the French Spot and US Landsat missions.
The telescope structure and the mirrors are made of silicon carbide, which provides very high optical stability and minimises thermo-elastic deformation, resulting in an excellent geometric image quality. This is unprecedented in this category of optical imagers. The data gathered will be used for monitoring land use and changes, soil sealing, land management, agriculture, forestry, natural disasters (floods, forest fires, landslides, erosion) and to assist humanitarian aid missions. Environmental observation in coastal areas likewise forms part of these activities, as does glacier, ice and snow monitoring.
The Sentinel-2-mission is based on a constellation of two identical satellites in the same orbit, 180° apart for optimal coverage and data delivery. The satellites are orbiting the earth every 100 minutes covering all Earth’s land surfaces, large islands, inland and coastal waters every five days. Sentinel-2B, which is identical in design, is planned for launch mid-2016.
The Sentinel-2 mission has been made possible thanks to the close collaboration between ESA, the European Commission, industry, service providers and data users. Its development has involved around 60 companies, led by Airbus Defence and Space in Germany for the satellites and Airbus Defence and Space in France for the multispectral instruments, while Airbus Defence and Space in Spain is responsible for the mechanical satellite structure.
The mission has been supported by the French space agency CNES to provide expertise in image processing and calibration, and by the German Aerospace Center DLR that provides the laser communication payload, developed by Tesat Spacecom, a subsidiary of Airbus Defence and Space in Germany. This piece of technology allows the Sentinel-2 satellites to transmit data via laser to satellites in geostationary orbit carrying the European Data Relay System (EDRS), which is currently under development at Airbus Defence and Space for ESA. This new SpaceDataHighway allows large volumes of data to be relayed very quickly so that information can be even more readily available for users.