The new large antenna (12.3m x 0.9m) of the environmental satellite Sentinel-1A´s radar instrument, developed by Airbus Defence and Space, has successfully unfolded and locked in place in the early hours of this morning (04 April 2014). Sentinel-1A, built for the European Space Agency (ESA) by Thales Alenia Space Italy as prime contractor, is the first in a series of Earth observation satellites specially developed and built for the European ‘Copernicus’ environment and security programme. At 23:02 CEST last night, the satellite was successfully launched on board a Soyuz launcher from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana.
“This successful start of the Sentinel-1A mission – and thus the Copernicus programme – marks a new era in Earth observation. With the satellite’s powerful radar instrument- the heart of the mission- and its ‘all-weather’ and ‘round-the-clock’ capabilities, Airbus Defence and Space is making a decisive contribution to even more effective operational Earth observation that will benefit humans and nature more than ever,” says François Auque, Head of Space Systems. “The instrument will also deliver unprecedented data to scientists.”
After a flight time of only around 25 minutes, the satellite was accurately placed into its designated orbit. Initial communications with the ground showed that the system is working as planned. Airbus Defence and Space engineers supported European Space Agency (ESA) technicians who worked through the night at the satellite control centre in Darmstadt to unfold and lock the solar panels and the five-part, 12.3-metre-long radar antenna in several stages. And with that, the Sentinel-1A satellite has passed its critical initial phase with flying colours.
All subsystems will be systematically checked over the coming days, and the radar instrument is due to be switched on in space for the first time in the early hours of Sunday morning. The radar instrument will be thoroughly calibrated during a commissioning phase lasting approximately three months, after which routine operation can begin. The planned mission duration is seven years but the spacecraft has resources for a total of 12 years.
Sentinel-1A, is specially designed to carry out a broad range of tasks relating to environment and security. It will be used by a number of operational services, it will assist ship routing, it will monitor ice and oil spills at sea and will also be used for observing environmental events such as forest fires, landslides and floods. It will also provide information and support to assistance, rescue and relief missions during disasters, where it is vital to have up-to-date data as quickly as possible.
Source: Airbus Defence and Space