A European environmental study satellite has been handed over to the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (Eumetsat) for continued operation now that in-orbit tests have concluded.
The Sentinel-3A satellite was launched on Feb. 16 to map Earth’s surface, including both land and water, to determine surface temperature and patterns of changing vegetation, human population mapped by monitoring urban heat islands, and track wildfires. The mission is a joint project between Eumetsat, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Union.
Both the ESA and Eumetsat have access to the satellite’s sensors. The former will focus on the land data, and the latter on the marine data. The satellite’s health is monitored by the ESA.
The data gathered by the satellite has been rigorously tested to ensure that it is providing accurate information.
“After only five months of commissioning, we have already released samples for most types of data products,” said Susanne Mcklenburg, ESA’s Sentinel-3 mission manager. “The coming months will see a gradual ramp-up of our processing and data dissemination activities to make sure that the user community is served in the best possible way.”
Sentinel-3 may be in orbit doing its job for over a decade. In 2017, a second, identical satellite will be launched by the ESA, completing the mission’s final constellation configuration. The two satellites together will provide their data worldwide and for free through the Copernicus Services, an ESA environmental monitoring program.
Each Sentinel-3 satellite carries four instruments: a Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer, two thermal infrared channels for fire detection, and the Ocean and Land Colour Instrument, which measures ocean color and vegetation with a resolution of 300 meters (984 feet) over a swath width of 1,270 kilometers (789 miles.)
Sentinel-3A launched on board a Rockot launcher, based on the Russian SS-19 missile from the early 1970s, from Plesetsky Cosmodrome.
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