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N° 21–2017: Air quality-monitoring satellite in orbit

13 October 2017

The first Copernicus mission dedicated to monitoring our atmosphere, Sentinel‑5P, has been launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.

The 820 kg satellite was carried into orbit on a Rockot launcher at 09:27 GMT (11:27 CEST) today.

The first stage separated 2 min 16 sec after liftoff, followed by the fairing and second stage at 3 min 3 sec and 5 min 19 sec, respectively. The upper stage then fired twice, delivering Sentinel-5P to its final orbit 79 min after liftoff.

After separating from the upper stage, Sentinel-5P deployed its three solar panels and began communications with Earth. The first signal was received 93 min after launch as the satellite passed over the Kiruna station in Sweden.

Telemetry links, command and control were then established by controllers at ESA’s operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany, allowing them to monitor the health of the satellite.

The launch and the early orbit phase will last three days, during which controllers will check the satellite’s key systems and configure it for flight in space.

Following this, a commissioning phase will check all elements of the satellite’s systems and the main instrument will be decontaminated. Once completed after a few weeks, the cooler door will be opened and the calibration and validation of Sentinel-5P’s main Tropomi instrument will be performed.

The mission is expected to begin full operations six months from now.

“Launching the sixth Sentinel satellite for the Copernicus programme is testament to the extensive competence we have here at ESA, from its moment of conception to well into operations,” said ESA Director General Jan Woerner.

“The Sentinel-5P satellite is now safely in orbit so it is up to our mission control teams to steer this mission into its operational life and maintain it for the next seven years or more.”

Sentinel-5P – the P standing for Precursor – is the first Copernicus mission dedicated to monitoring our atmosphere.

The mission is one of six families of dedicated missions that make up the core of Europe’s Copernicus environmental monitoring network. Copernicus relies on the Sentinels and contributing missions to provide data for monitoring the environment and supporting civil security activities. Sentinel-5P carries the state-of-the-art Tropomi to do just that.

Developed jointly by ESA and the Netherlands Space Office, Tropomi will map a multitude of trace gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and aerosols – all of which affect the air we breathe and therefore our health, and our climate.

Sentinel-5P was developed to reduce data gaps between the Envisat satellite – in particular the Sciamachy instrument – and the launch of Sentinel-5, and to complement the GOME-2 sensor on the MetOp satellite.

“Having Sentinel-5P in orbit will give us daily and global views at our atmosphere with a precision we never had before,” said Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes.

“Our historic data records, together with the long-term perspective of the Copernicus satellite programme, opens the doors for generating datasets spanning decades – a prerequisite to understanding our ever-changing Earth. ” 

In the future, both the geostationary Sentinel-4 and polar-orbiting Sentinel‑5 missions will monitor the composition of the atmosphere for Copernicus Atmosphere Services. Both missions will be carried on meteorological satellites operated by Eumetsat.

Until then, the Sentinel-5P mission will play a key role in monitoring and tracking air pollution.

About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.

ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia is an Associate Member.

ESA has established formal cooperation with six Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes as well as with Eumetsat for the development of meteorological missions.

ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.

Today, it develops and launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space. ESA also has a strong applications programme developing services in Earth observation, navigation and telecommunications.

Learn more about ESA at www.esa.int

For further information, please contact:
ESA Media Relations Office
Email: media@esa.int
Tel: +33 1 53 69 72 99

 


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