Oct 07, 2014

Europe’s First Copernicus Satellite Begins Operations

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PARIS — Europe’s Sentinel-1A radar Earth observation satellite — the first in a series of environment-monitoring spacecraft built for the European Commission’s Copernicus program — on Oct. 6 entered routine operations with its data now freely available, the European Space Agency said.

Sentinel-1A was launched April 3 into a position that forced it to take slightly longer than expected to reach its final, polar low Earth operating orbit. As it climbed into position, the satellite made eight maneuvers to dodge space debris, ESA said.

The satellite is the first dedicated spacecraft for Copernicus, a multibillion-euro (multibillion-dollar) European Commission network of space and ground assets to monitor the environment.

The Copernicus satellites were developed by the 20-nation ESA. The Copernicus network, including the satellites, is owned by the European Commission, which is the executive arm of the 28-nation European Union.

ESA and the European Union are negotiating a legal framework under which Copernicus will be maintained and developed.

Sentinel 1A also will be the first test of Europe’s future European Data Relay Satellite Service, under which Sentinel Earth observation data is relayed, by laser optics, to telecommunications satellites in higher, geostationary to speed data delivery to users. Sentinel-1A will begin testing the data-relay element of the system in the coming weeks through Europe’s AlphaSat satellite.

AlphaSat’s main payload is for commercial L-band mobile communications services by Inmarsat of London. The satellite includes several ESA-furnished technology demonstration payloads, including the laser communications terminal.

Airbus Defence and Space will be operating the data-relay service commercially, pending successful laser-communications trials between Sentinel-1A and AlphaBus, and the signing of an ESA-Commission Copernicus agreement.

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