The European Space Agency (ESA) has launched the fifth Sentinel launch with the aim of observing the Earth. The Sentinel-2B has a large camera to film the earth in all light. It will be joining the Sentinel-2A in orbit but 180 degrees apart providing a complete view of the Earth every five days. Both Sentinel-2A and Sentinel 2-B are part of the Copernicus program to monitor the environment.
Copernicus is directed by the European Commission with a partnership with the ESA. It is the largest single earth observation program aimed at observing the Earth through a continuous, high quality and continuous capacity providing information to managing the environment, understanding and preventing climate change, and civil security. The ESA is developing seven Sentinel missions for the Copernicus program, with each Sentinel providing data on specific objectives from weather to global climate changes to tracking deforestation.
According to the BBC, the Sentinels will “gather critical information on the state of the planet” that will be used to “inform and enforce EU policies.” Joseph Aschbacher, the director of the Earth observation at the ESA, said that these particular Sentinels are “the ‘heartbeat’” of the program because “they take the images that are most easily understandable.”
After the rocket launched with the Sentinel onboard, controllers in Germany waited for a signal to start the first operations. Over the next several weeks, the orbit information will be gathered to adjust the Sentinels’ course over the Earth. Afterward, the ESA team will start receiving data, and in October they should be in “full constellation readiness.”
According to ABC News, the two Sentinels in the Copernicus program will “produce extremely precise data” and should also help track pollution in bodies of water; land changes; or produce “disaster maps.” Images of the Earth will be sent to a geostationary satellite before being transmitted back to Earth. Sentinel 1 is a “radar platform,” while Sentinel 3 monitors oceans.
Sentinels 4 and 5 tracks the atmosphere while Sentinel 6 monitors ocean height. The EU and ESA are already in discussions to extend the program. Future Sentinels will likely examine carbon dioxide, droughts, polar ice caps, and ice surfaces. Aschbacher, though, considers these projects to be a work in progress. Funding will need to be secured before Sentinel 7, 8, and 9 could be launched. Currently, the Copernicus program costs billions of euros. The first Sentinel was launched in April 2014.
By Cheryl Werber
Photo Courtesy ESA–Stephane Corvaja