ESA Sentinel-1A Satellite Performs Critical Dance Routine After Launch
April 4, 2014

ESA Sentinel-1A Satellite Performs Critical Dance Routine After Launch

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Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

ESA has maintained that its Sentinal-1A satellite, which had a successful launch on Thursday, will help European citizens, policymakers and service providers get unprecedented access to key environmental data on a regular basis.

The 2.5-ton satellite launched from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana at 21:02 GMT on April 3 aboard a Soyuz rocket. After a series of stage separations and burns, the satellite separated from the rocket’s upper stage 23 minutes and 24 seconds after liftoff at an altitude of 430 miles.

Following the separation, Sentinel-1A performed a “carefully choreographed” dance routine that lasted around 10 hours, during which the satellite opened its large 33-foot-long radar antenna and two 33-foot-long solar wings. This was deemed the most critical phase of the mission by operators, and as such, the team planned a prolonged choreographed deployment to ensure the safety of the satellite and its instruments.

[ Watch the Video: Sentinel-1 Unfolds in ESA Animation ]

The sequence also allowed power from the wings to be available as soon as possible so that the satellite could operate independently.

“This crucial and complex deployment sequence was analysed and dissected over and over again during the design phase,” said ESA’s Sentinel-1A Project Manager, Ramon Torres. "It was tested with perfect results in last month, but it is still a magic moment to know that it has happened in the sky.

“We now very much look forward to the end of the launch and early orbit phase planned for the coming Sunday, and then commissioning the satellite for operations,” he added. “It is reassuring to know that our precious satellite in the safe hands of our colleagues at the European Space Operations Centre in Germany."

“Sentinel-1A opens a new page in the implementation of Copernicus, the second EU flagship space initiative, after the Galileo positioning system,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA. “The Copernicus programme will provide European citizens with the most ambitious space-based services in the world for environmental and security applications."

The Sentinel-1A satellite marks the first mission of a series of dedicated missions that will make up the core of Europe’s Copernicus environmental monitoring network. Moving forward, Copernicus will provide operational information on the world’s land, oceans and atmosphere to support environmental and security policymaking, as well as the needs of Europe’s citizens and service providers.

Together with Sentinel 1B, scheduled for a later launch, the mission will provide all-weather day-and-night imagery of the land, sea and air of Europe, Canada and the Polar Regions in near real-time.

Sentinel-1 will not only transmit data to a number of ground stations around the world, but is also equipped with a laser terminal to transmit data via European Data Relay System satellites in geostationary orbit for continual data delivery.

Now that the 10-hour dance routine is complete, the satellite is expected to enter commissioning phase, with mission operators checking and calibrating all instruments. The mission is expected to begin operations within three months.

“Data from the Sentinel satellites will be provided on a free and open basis. Raw data will be analysed and processed by public and private sector service providers,” said ESA in a statement.


Image Below: Sentinel-1A lifted off on a Soyuz launcher from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana at 21:02 GMT (23:02 CEST) on 3 April 2014. Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace