On Feb. 16, 2016, the European Space Agency (ESA) 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 as well as 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 mission will be at the heart of a wide range of applications, from measuring marine biological activity to providing information about the health of vegetation, said Volker Liebig, ESA's director of Earth Observation Programmes. Given its extensive payload, Sentinel-3A is a real workhorse that is set to change the variety of data products provided to users.
The satellite delivered its first image on Feb. 29, 2016, showing the transition from day to night over Svalbard, Norway. Sentinel-3A will be joined in orbit by Sentinel-3B in 2017, providing a revisit time over almost any point on Earth of less than two days.