France: ESA tanks up the Sentinel-1B with fuel and the satellite is now ready to join the Soyuz rocket that will take it into orbit on 22 April at 21:02 GMT (23:02 CEST). Once in orbit, it will provide radar images of Earth for Europe’s Copernicus environmental monitoring program.
The mission is being used for a multitude of applications to improve everyday life and understand our changing planet, from tracking land subsidence to monitoring ice in polar oceans. The Sentinel-1B satellite has been at Europe’s Spaceport near Kourou in French Guiana since early March being prepared for liftoff.
These preparations have included charging batteries, checking the multilayer insulation that protects the satellite from the huge temperature changes in space, and also the hazardous task of fuelling. Now that all these ‘standalone’ activities have been completed, the satellite has been declared ready to start ‘combined operations’.
Although both Sentinel-1 satellites use the same type of Soyuz rocket, this launch is different because other smaller satellites are piggybacking a ride into space. Three CubeSats are taking advantage of the lift into space.
Mikael Juhl Kristensen and Anders Kaloer from the University of Aalborg, Denmark, noted, “This is a first big step to working on a satellite like Sentinel-1B one day. Thank you for the piggyback!” The other is Microscope, from the French space agency CNES, which will test the universality of free fall.
ESA’s Sentinel-1 Project Manager, Ramón Torres, commented, “Offering the launch possibility to both Microscope and the CubeSats is very gratifying when you see the satisfaction of a team that spent almost fifteen years to complete the development of their satellite, and the extraordinary motivation of group of students realising their dreams.”