A few hours ago the Sentinel-3A satellite, part of the GMES / Copernicus program, was launched from the Russian Plesetsk Cosmodrome on a Rockot launch vehicle. After about an hour and a half it separated from the rocket’s last stage, called Breeze KM, it started communicating with the control center and to deploy its solar panels. Its final orbit is Sun-synchronous, which means it will pass over a certain area of the Earth at the same local time, with an altitude of about 815 kilometers (about 506 miles).
The program originally called Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) and later Copernicus aims to create an autonomous territorial control system through a constellation of satellites that have different functions. The first of of the Sentinel satellites was launched in April 2014 to open a new era in Earth observations from space.
This satellite of the Sentinel-3 type has the purpose to make various measurements of the seas: topography, surface height and waves height. The sea mapping operations are the most important for the Sentinel-3 series but they also serve to map and monitor rivers, lakes and forests.
The Sentinel-3 satellites have been designed to be useful for many purposes. The monitoring that will begin with the one just launched will be used for the detection of wildfires, for the collection of data on pollution and for weather forecast. Consequently, the data will be used for ecological studies but also for example in agriculture support. The data will be available free-of-charge for everyone so their use can be extended in time.
Depending on the requirements, the data from the Sentinel-3A satellite will be combined with those collected from other types of satellites of the Sentinel program. There will also be integration with data collected by the Jason-3 satellite, a mission that began a few weeks ago based on a collaboration among various agencies including NASA and CNES, the French space agency.
Today the Sentinel-3A satellite was launched, the first of its kind. The launch of its twin satellite Sentinel-3B is expected in about a year. ESA has recently awarded the contract for the construction of two more satellites, Sentinel-3C and Sentinel-3D. With four satellites, it will be possible to carry out surveys on the same area of the Earth with the different instruments in less than a day, guaranteeing a continuous data update. The expected life for each of these satellites is at least 7 years.