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ESA / Applications / Observing the Earth
ERS-2 satellite and applications
ERS-2 satellite and applications

The European Remote Sensing satellite ERS-1, launched in 1991, carried a comprehensive payload including an imaging synthetic aperture radar, a radar altimeter and other powerful instruments to measure ocean surface temperature and winds at sea. ERS-2, which overlapped with ERS-1, was launched in 1995 with an additional sensor for atmospheric ozone research.

At their time of launch the two ERS satellites were the most sophisticated Earth observation spacecraft ever developed and launched by Europe. These highly successful ESA satellites collected a wealth of valuable data on Earth’s land surfaces, oceans, and polar caps and were called upon to monitor natural disasters such as severe flooding or earthquakes in remote parts of the world.

Both ERS satellites were built with a core payload of two specialised radars and an infrared imaging sensor. The two were designed as identical twins with one important difference: ERS-2 included an extra instrument to monitor ozone levels in the atmosphere.

Shortly after the launch of ERS-2 in 1995 ESA decided to link the two satellites in the first ‘tandem’ mission which lasted for nine months. During this time the increased frequency and level of data available to scientists offered a unique opportunity to observe changes over a very short space of time, as both satellites orbited Earth only 24 hours apart.

In March 2000, a computer and gyro control failure led to ERS-1 finally ending its operations, after far exceeding its planned lifetime.

In July 2011, ERS-2 was retired and the process of deorbiting the satellite began.

    ERS - 1 ERS - 2
Launch from Kourou,
French Guiana
17 July 1991 21 April 1995
Launcher Ariane 4
Launch mass 2384 kg 2516 kg
Number of instruments 4/5 including SAR
with GOME added to ERS-2
Orbit Sun synchronous,
altitude 800 km
Inclination 98.5 degrees
Time for one orbit 100 minutes
Cycle 35-day repeat

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