Arianespace wins Sentinel-1C launch deal; Airbus delivers MetOp-SG-B weather satellite

(IMAGE: Arianespace) has been awarded a launch contract by the European Space Agency (ESA) on behalf of the European Commission, to launch Sentinel-1C in the first half of 2023 on Vega-C. The satellite, weighing around 2.3 metric tons, will be placed in a Sun-synchronous orbit with an altitude around 690 km. 

“We are very proud of this new launch contract for the European Commission and the European Space Agency; it underlines our long-standing partnership for the success of Copernicus”, said Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace. “For Arianespace, this contract is a sign of the confidence in the Vega-C system and a strong sign of the commitment of European institutions for an autonomous access to space.”

Before Sentinel-1C satellite, both Sentinel-1A and -1B were previously launched with Arianespace in 2014 and 2016. Sentinel-1C will round out the initial capacity offered by the two preceding satellites to offer a comprehensive response to the needs for environmental and security monitoring via spaceborne radar systems. Sentinel satellites are part of the Copernicus program designed to give Europe continuous, independent and reliable access to Earth observation data.

Copernicus, one of the flagships of the European Union Space Programme, presently includes eight Sentinel satellites: Sentinel-1A and -1B radar imaging satellites, Sentinel-2A and -2B optical imaging satellites, Sentinel-3A and -3B for ocean and atmosphere monitoring; Sentinel-5P enables monitoring the quality of air, while Sentinel-6 is monitoring sea levels. Other Sentinels are in preparation, such as Sentinel-4, Sentinel-5 and the CO2 monitoring mission.

ESA’s new Vega-C launcher, built by Avio (Colleferro, Italy) as prime contractor, has been specifically upgraded to launch satellites of the class of Sentinel-1C.

MetOp-SG-B weather satellite flies through tests

(PHOTO: Airbus)

The flight model of the Scatterometer Antenna Subsystem (SAS) of the MetOp Second Generation meteorological satellites has been officially delivered after four months of extensive testing at the Airbus facility in Madrid. It will now be transferred to Airbus in Friedrichshafen (Germany) where it will be integrated into the satellite along with the other instruments. The SAS protoflight model underwent a lengthy test campaign where it was subjected to the extreme conditions that it will encounter during launch and in-orbit operation. These tests included: antenna deployment, thermal cycling, mechanical vibrations and acoustic environment.

“It is for us a very important milestone as it is a three-antenna system with a very complex in-orbit deployment,” said Luis Guerra, Head of Airbus Space Systems Spain. “The MetOp-SG SAT-B meteorological satellites will rely on two key instruments with major contribution from Airbus in Spain to carry out their mission: the Scatterometer (SCA) with the Antenna Subsystem (SAS) and the Ice Cloud Imager (ICI).”

The SCA with its major subsystem SAS is one of five instruments on board MetOp-SG SAT-B and will provide double the resolution of the first generation MetOp satellites. It will measure wind speed and direction over the ocean surface, to help monitor scale phenomena such as ocean winds and continental ice sheets, and check land surface soil moisture – a key driver of water and heat fluxes between the ground and the atmosphere. It is expected to cover 99 percent of the Earth’s surface within a period of two days and with a resolution of 25 kilometres.

Data provided by scatterometers has been used for over 30 years, since ERS-1 and 2, for weather and wave forecasting. More recently, with MetOp satellites, it has been used to study unusual weather phenomena such as El Niño, the long-term effects of deforestation and changes in sea-ice masses around the poles. All of which play a central role in monitoring climate change. The MetOp-SG SAT-B series of satellites focus on the use of microwave sensors that will provide: enhanced infrared, microwave and radio occultation temperature and humidity soundings; polar atmospheric motion vectors extracted from optical images; new precipitation and cloud measurements from images in the optical, submillimetre and microwave spectra; and high-resolution measurements of ocean surface wind vector and soil moisture extracted from scatterometer observations. These data will help improve numerical weather prediction – the backbone of daily weather forecasts – regionally and globally. The first launch of the MetOp-SG mission is scheduled for 2024 after completion of integration and satellite level testing. The nominal operational lifetime of each of the three MetOp-SG satellites is 7.5 years, ensuring full operational coverage over a 21-year period

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