On Feb. 16, 2016, the European Space Agency’s much-anticipated Sentinel-3A satellite was successfully launched from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia.
Sentinel-3A carries a suite of instruments that will measure Earth’s oceans, land, ice and atmosphere, providing information in near-real time for ocean and weather forecasting as part of Europe’s Copernicus program.
The satellite’s instruments include the Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer, which delivers high-accuracy temperature readings of Earth’s surface at a spatial resolution of 500 meters for visible/near-infrared and short-wavelength infrared channels, and 1 kilometer for thermal infrared channels. The medium-resolution Ocean and Land Colour Instrument has 21 bands and a spatial resolution of 300 meters per pixel to map changing land cover, and monitor ocean biology and water quality. The dual-frequency advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar Altimeter measures sea-surface height, ocean-surface waves, sea-ice extent, and the height of large inland rivers and lakes. And the Microwave Radiometer is used to correct measurements from the radar altimeter affected by water vapor in the atmosphere.
The satellite will be flown by ESA until the instruments are commissioned—in about five months. It then will be transferred to Eumetsat, the European organisation for the exploitation of meteorological satellites, for routine operation. Sentinel-3A will be joined in orbit by Sentinel-3B in 2017, providing a revisit time over almost any point on Earth of under two days.