The big news in the Earth Observation community this week was the successful launch of the Sentinel-3 satellite. This forms the third instalment of the Copernicus mission, after the launch of Sentinel-1 in 2014 and Sentinel-2 in 2015.
The satellite was launched from Plesetsk in Russia on the 16th February 2016. Visit ESA’s website for the footage of the launch.
Sentinel-3 satellite offers to provide realms of information to the scientific community, using its 4 imaging instruments. Its main objective is to systematically measure Earth’s oceans, land, ice and atmosphere so that we can better understand the way the world works, and how it changes between seasons, and between years.
With reference to our oceans, Sentinel-3 is able to measure its temperature, colour, height as well as the thickness of the ice which covers it in our Polar Regions. These measurements are vital to understand how the world’s oceans are changing, such as the change in sea-level in response to climate change, or to simply monitor how ocean pollution is changing in response to human activities.
Over land, Sentinel-3 satellite will understand how the land is used, tracking deforestation and urban growth. Additionally, it will be able to tell us how healthy global vegetation is and even monitor wildfires, all from space! – This is pretty amazing and does all this using its optical instrument, which images the earth in a manner similar to a digital camera (although much more fancy).
This satellite also houses a radar altimeter (in SAR mode) which is fundamental for monitoring the height of earth at different locations. This can help to monitor land changes but more importantly elevation changes in some of earth’s largest ice masses, such as our ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. It will be the first satellite to do this for the entire earth’s surface, using SAR.
Sentinel-3 satellite offers some truly interesting information and will definitely help the scientific community in numerous ways. From this point on it will take approximately 6 months before we can get our hands on the data, as ESA need to calibrate the instruments and ensure they are working properly. After this, be sure to watch out for the exciting discoveries the information promises to provide.
To find out more about Sentinel-3, please visit ESA.