June 16, 2015—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.
“Sentinel 2 is the next important milestone to deploy Europe´s Copernicus programme for which Airbus Defence and Space is a key contributor. In particular, we are strongly involved in the Copernicus space segment delivering eight satellites and four instruments,” said François Auque, Head of Space Systems.
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.
Copernicus is the most ambitious Earth observation programme to date. It will provide accurate, timely and easily accessible information to improve the management of the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security. Copernicus is the new name for the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programme, previously known as GMES. This initiative is headed by the European Commission (EC) in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Environment Agency (EEA). ESA is responsible for the coordination of the space component of the programme, coordinates the delivery of data from more than 30 contributing satellites and operates – in tandem with Eumetsat – the Sentinel satellites while the EEA is responsible for data from airborne and ground sensors. The EC, acting on behalf of the European Union, is responsible for the overall initiative, setting requirements and managing the services.
The Sentinel satellites
ESA is developing seven Sentinel missions specifically for Copernicus, the first of which – Sentinel-1A with a radar instrument built by Airbus Defence and Space – was launched in April 2014. The Sentinels will provide a unique set of observations, which started with the allweather, day and night radar images from Sentinel-1, and will now continue with optical images from Sentinel-2A. Airbus DS is core partner in the Copernicus Programme leading 5 of 7 Copernicus Missions as Prime Contractor: Sentinel-2, -4, -5P, -5, -6 and contributes significantly to Sentinel-1 (Radar-Instrument) and Sentinel-3 (MWR-Instrument)
Airbus Defence and Space
Airbus Defence and Space is a division of Airbus Group formed by combining the business activities of Cassidian, Astrium and Airbus Military. The new division is Europe’s number one defence and space enterprise, the second largest space business worldwide and among the top ten global defence enterprises. It employs more than 38,000 employees generating revenues of approximately €13 billion per year.