France: 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 4 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.
Source: Airbus Defence and Space