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Ground-based satellite transponder

Sentinel-1 Student Transponders

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ESA / Education

The Sentinel-1 Student Transponder project is a unique new hands-on educational initiative for university students offered by ESA. It is the first ESA student project to involve students directly in preparing for and then contributing to the ESA Earth Observation satellite, Sentinel-1, the first of the 5 satellites of the Copernicus Earth-monitoring programme to be launched.

The ‘Sentinel-1 Student Transponders’ project is built around technical modifications to two ground-based transponders which were built for the previous Envisat/ASAR mission. Both transponders were used extensively to calibrate radar brightness images recorded by the ASAR. Through the project, students will have the opportunity to redesign the transponders and make them compatible with the forthcoming Copernicus Sentinel-1 Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) mission.

The Envisat/ASAR transponders are composed of a central unit with two antennas; one for receiving and one for transmitting radar pulses, and have dimensions of about 1,20m x 1,20m in total. The transponders provide very stable radar brightness levels, with and are used for the radiometric calibration of the SAR signal.

Students will have to work in teams while ESA will provide the transponders and technical support. In the first phase, students will have to modify the circuitry of the transponders (change of the radio frequency, or RF, and other adjustments) in order to make them compatible with the Copernicus Sentinel-1 SAR instrument.

In the second phase, the students will be given by ESA the opportunity to use the modified transponders in combination with the Sentinel-1 satellite in orbit and focus on making real measurements conincident with the Sentinel-1’s SAR. In doing so the students will learn a lot about spacecraft operations, SAR data processing and calibration, and scientific analysis.

The project is open to students from Poland, Czech Republic and Romania, the newest ESA Member States, with the purpose of facilitating the transfer of ESA’s know-how and building capacity for the next generation of space experts in these countries.

Quick Facts

Project: Sentinel-1 Student Transponders
Level: University
Status: call for proposal open – deadline 15 November 2013
Contact: student.transponders @

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