France: European Space Agency’s (ESA) CryoSat-2 satellite has delivered its first data. The satellite was launched on 8 April and has been performing well during these critical first few days in orbit. Mission controllers at European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) have been monitoring CryoSat-2 around the clock to ensure that the satellite’s systems and payload were functioning normally.
The CryoSat-2 satellite was launched at 15:57 CEST (13:57 UTC), 8 April, on a Dnepr rocket provided by the International Space Company Kosmotras, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The signal confirming that it had separated from the launcher came 17 minutes later from the Malindi ground station in Kenya.
On April 11, CryoSat-2’s primary instrument, the Synthetic Aperture Interferometric Radar Altimeter (SIRAL), was switched on for the first time and started gathering the first radar echo data. SIRAL’s first data were acquired at 16:40 CEST and were downloaded and processed at ESA’s Kiruna ground station.
Prof. Duncan Wingham, CryoSat’s Lead Investigator, said, “We switched SIRAL on and it worked beautifully from the very start. Our first data were taken over the Antarctic’s Ross Ice Shelf, and clearly show the ice cover and reflections from underlying layers. These are excellent results at such an early stage and are a tribute to the hard work of the entire CryoSat community.”
Marking a significant achievement for ESA’s Earth observation programme, CryoSat-2 is the third of its earth explorer satellites to be placed in orbit, all within a little over 12 months. CryoSat-2 follows on from the gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) mission, launched in March 2009 and the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission, launched last November.