A few hours ago, the Sentinel-5P satellite of the Copernicus / GMES program, blasted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia, on a Rockot with a Briz-KM upper stage rocket. The satellite regularly separated from the rocket’s last stage and after about an hour and a half started sending signals.
The program originally called Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) and later Copernicus is intended to create an autonomous system of territorial control through a constellation of satellites that have different functions. The first Sentinel satellite was launched in April 2014 to open a new era in Earth observations from space. The previous satellite launched was Sentinel-2B in March 2017.
The Sentinel-5P – where “P” stands for Precursor – satellite is the first of the Copernicus constellation devoted to atmospheric monitoring. The term Precursor is due to the fact that it’s the forerunner of the future Sentinel-5 satellite and represents a step forward compared to Envisat. It will complement the EUMETSAT’s MetOp meteorological satellites and work in coordination with the Suomi-NPP American mission, which began in 2011 with similar aims.
The Sentinel-5P and Suomi-NPP satellites will fly together in a Sun-synchronous orbit, meaning they will fly over every area of the Earth’s surface at the same local time, at an altitude of about 824 kilometers. Its Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument (Tropomi) can map various gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulfur dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and aerosols.
The main purpose of the Sentinel-5P satellite in its mission of duration expected of at least seven years will be to perform a global dayly coverage of the Earth to provide a constantly updated map of the gases detected and cloud distribution. This will provide an important contribution to environmental and climate monitoring under normal conditions or in critical moments such as periods of volcano activity or holes in the atmospheric ozone layer.
The satellites of the Copernicus program have Instruments and functions that complement each other. For example, the Sentinel-5P can complete Sentinel-2 detections to track environmental changes that are following climate changes and pollution. In the next few days, Sentinel-5P will be thoroughly tested and if all goes well it can begin its mission.