April 3 Europe launched the first Sentinel-1A satellite of the €8.4-billion Earth monitoring Copernicus program, which is managed by the European Commission. This was the first of a constellation of six Sentinel families which are scheduled to be launched by the end of the decade. The satellites will provide long-term monitoring of Earth’s land, water and atmosphere. Copernicus will integrate data other satellites, from ocean buoys, weather stations and air-quality monitoring networks.
Copernicus was designed by the European Union (EU) and the European Space Agency (ESA) to help the European Commission and EU member states to develop environmental policies and monitor the results. Its data will be used to create services for practical applications such as ice mapping, agriculture management, climate-change monitoring and prediction and disaster response.
Free and open data
One of the most important aspects of the Copernicus program is that the data collected under the program will be free for anyone to access and use. Scientific researchers and public authorities will be part of a formal program which included dedicated help desks and support.
The other important aspect of the Copernicus program is that it is not a one-off, it is a system that will be maintained into the future. Sentinel satellites will be replaced regularly as they age. This will privide data sets that can support longitudinal studies, for example, of the impact of climate change over long time periods.
Sentinel-1 is a constellation of two polar-orbiting satellites, operating 24/7 performing C-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imaging, enabling them to acquire imagery regardless of the weather.
Sentinel-1A was launched April 3. Sentinel 1B is scheduled to be launched in the next 18 months.
Sentinel-2 is a pair of high-resolution imaging devices that are basically advanced Landsat devices with a spatial resolution of about 10 meters and revisit times of 2–3 days at mid-latitudes.
Sentinel-3 will measure sea surface topography, sea and land surface temperature, and ocean and land surface colour with high accuracy and reliability to support ocean forecasting systems, environmental monitoring and climate monitoring.
Sentinel-4 will monitor atmospheric pollutants from a geostationary orbit to provide hourly measurements over most of Europe and North Africa.
Sentinel-5 is dedicated to atmospheric monitoring using multiple instruments including UVNS (Ultraviolet Visible Near-infrared Shortwave) spectrometer, IRS (InfraRed Sounder), VII (Visible Infrared Imager) and 3MI (Multi-Viewing Multi-channel Multi-polarisation Imager).