Powerful satellite to launch over Europe this week

Sentinel 1A will offer unparalleled new view of what is happening on the ground and in the seas

The first of a fleet of six European satellites is due to launch on April 3rd as part of the Copernicus programme. Its aim is to deliver data and imagery that will help with environmental management and tackle climate change. Video: Reuters / ESA

 


Europe will have a new eye in the sky when the Sentinel 1A Earth observation satellite is launched on Thursday. It is one in a series of related satellites that will provide an unparalleled view of what is happening on the ground and in the seas.

The satellites will deliver visual and sensor information on land use, for example providing crop yield predictions or assessing the extent of national forests. Air pollution can be monitored also as can the ash from an active volcano.

The Sentinels will be able to warn of algal or jellyfish blooms or track the movement of oil slicks at sea. They can also assist search and rescue operations or help to monitor the extent of flood waters. And Ireland’s weather will not present a problem for the radar systems as they can see through clouds.

Having the satellites in orbit will also support an important high-tech business area, said Dr Barry Fennell, a member of the European Space Agency’s Earth Observation programme board.

Companies across the EU can process the free raw data, digging out the knowledge contained within it for sale to customers that can use it.

Nine satellites
Sentinel 1A is the first of nine satellites being put into orbit under the Copernicus Earth Observation programme, Dr Fennell said. Having multiple satellites helps with the “revisit time”, the time it takes before a satellite returns to a given location. “Ireland will have a revisit time of two days on average. It is hugely important for providing a sequence of data over time,” said Dr Fennell who is also co-ordinator of Copernicus-related activities in Ireland within Enterprise Ireland.

The Copernicus programme was started in 1998 and it has taken since then to reach the first of six Sentinel launches. The initial three will lift a single satellite while the last three will deliver two satellites each for insertion into orbit atop a Russian Soyuz rocket launched from the European space port near Kourou, French Guiana. The costs are considerable with €3.4 billion spent so far and another €3.8 billion committed up to 2020, Dr Fennell said.