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New era in earth observation to lift off with UK technology aboard
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Published on 03-04-14

The first satellite in the EU's earth observation programme Copernicus is scheduled to be launched on a SOYUZ rocket from Europe's spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, later today.  Data provided by the satellite will have many applications: from climate change and environmental monitoring to charting natural disasters, assessing agricultural land use and the impact of urban planning to mention a few. The main instrument of Sentinel 1A is the synthetic aperture radar, the electronics for which were developed and manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space (formerly Astrium UK) in Portsmouth.

    New era in earth observation to lift off with UK technology aboard

    The first of eight satellites in the programme, Sentinel-1A will offer reliable and repeat wide area monitoring, providing imaging of all global landmasses, coastal zones and shipping routes at high resolution. The radar beam can penetrate forests and scrub to reach the ground and register any movements or changes to within a centimetre and will provide an all-weather, day and night supply of images of the Earth's surface.

    Weighing roughly 2.2 metric tonnes, the Sentinel-1 satellite will orbit the Earth at an altitude of 700km for at least seven years. It will be joined in 2015 by Sentinel-1B – enabling far wider coverage - and the remaining six will be deployed by 2017.

    Applications for Sentinel-1 services include:

    • monitoring sea ice zones and the Arctic environment;
    • assimilation of sea ice observations in the forecasting systems;
    • surveillance of marine environment, including oil-spill monitoring and ship detection for maritime security;
    • monitoring land surface motion risks;
    • mapping of land surfaces: forest, water and soil, sustainable agriculture;
    • mapping in support of humanitarian aid in crisis situations;
      climate monitoring.

    Data will be made available free of charge to users, scientific and commercial, as well as the general public and will be delivered within an hour of reception for Near Real-Time (NRT) emergency response.

    Lift off is scheduled for 22:02 BST and can be watched via web streaming:


    Business opportunities

    Studies show that Copernicus could generate some €30 billion and create around 50,000 jobs in Europe by 2030. Also, the dissemination of Copernicus data will help citizens, businesses, researchers and policy makers to integrate an environmental dimension into all their activities and decision-making.

    The Copernicus programme is coordinated and managed by the Commission. The development of the space observation infrastructure is performed by the European Space Agency and the European Meteorological service.

    More on Copernicus

    Commission's policy on open data.

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    Last update: 11/04/2014  |Top