The European Space Agency (ESA) has successfully launched their Sentinel satellite today, which aims to revolutionize environmental and humantarian monitoring. Sentinel-2A is the first optical imaging satellite from the EU’s ambitious Copernicus program and will take high resolution images of Earth, hopefully providing us with a wealth of data.
Sentinel-2A was sent up on a Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. After the first phase is complete, which usually lasts for three days, researchers will begin checking and calibrating the equipment. The mission should begin in three or four months. Sentinel-2B, its twin satellite, will be launched in mid-2016.
“Sentinel-2 is the second satellite of a constellation of 20 satellites which will scrutinise planet Earth and will vastly improve the ability of Copernicus to provide European citizens with the most comprehensive data for environmental and security applications available anywhere in the world,” said ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain in a statement.
The satellite carries a high-resolution multispectral camera that is able to detect very specific wavelengths of light, providing an ‘unprecedented’ view of land change and vegetation growth. The mission will send back information on agricultural practices and the amount of pollution in lakes and coastal waters. It will also map changes in land cover, monitor the world’s forests and help in humanitarian relief efforts by taking images of floods, volcanic eruptions and landslides.
"We have 13 spectral bands including four in the so-called 'red edge' where plants, and chlorophyll for example, reflect light – and this shows us what plants are doing. This is especially important for food monitoring and, for me, food security applications will be among Sentinel-2's most important uses," Professor Volker Liebig, director of Earth observation at ESA, told BBC News.
“It will help the World Food Programme forecast bad harvests, and reduce, let's say, speculation on world food markets, which always costs lives because it sends prices skyrocketing even when there are enough cereals to go around,” he adds.
Sentinel-2A was developed by a consortium of 60 companies led by Airbus Defence and Space. The European Commission, ESA, industry, service providers and data users are working closely together for this mission.