Two GMES satellites to be launched on Europe’s new Vega rocket
ESA and Arianespace have signed contracts for the launches of two of ESA’s Sentinel satellites. Arianespace will launch Sentinel-2B and Sentinel-3B on Europe’s new Vega rocket from French Guiana.
The contracts were signed by the Chairman and CEO of Arianespace, Jean-Yves Le Gall, and ESA’s Director General, Jean-Jacques Dordain, on 14 December in Evry, France.
These agreements not only mark a significant milestone for ESA’s family of Sentinel satellites, but they are also Arianespace’s first commercial launch contracts with ESA for Europe’s new light Vega rocket.
As the Sentinels are being developed by ESA for Europe’s Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme, the launches are co-funded by ESA and the EU.
Supporting European policies, GMES uses accurate and timely data to provide key information services to improve the way the environment is managed, help mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security.
Since the provision of reliable data is key to the success of the GMES programme, ESA is developing five families of Sentinel satellites specifically for GMES.
The Sentinel missions are based on a constellation of two satellites to maximise coverage of Earth.
The contracts signed with Arianespace are for the second Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 satellites, which are now scheduled for launch in 2014–15 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.
Sentinel-2 carries a multispectral high-resolution imager primarily to monitor the land, providing data on vegetation, soil, water cover and coastal regions.
Sentinel-3 carries several instruments to measure variables such as sea-surface topography, sea- and land-surface temperature and ocean colour.
Complementing the larger Ariane rockets, the new light Vega rocket is designed to cope with a wide range of missions and payload configurations for different market opportunities.
In particular, it offers configurations able to handle payloads ranging from a single satellite up to one main satellite plus six microsatellites. It is compatible with payloads up to 1500 kg.
Altogether, seven ESA Member States (Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden) are contributing to the Vega programme.
The first Vega launch campaign is currently underway in French Guiana in preparation its maiden flight early next year.