The ESA's Sentinel swarm of satellites is about to receive a new member. Sentinel-5P has arrived in Plesetsk in northern Russia ahead of its scheduled launch in October. Once in orbit, the satellite will monitor air pollution over the entire planet every day, gathering environmental data and helping authorities make more accurate air-quality forecasts.
Don't be fooled by the number in its name: Sentinel-5P is the fourth mission to launch as part of the Sentinel program and the sixth individual satellite. The P stands for Precursor, since this satellite acts as an entree to the main course of the Sentinel-5, which is due to launch in a few years' time.
From orbit, Sentinel-5P will monitor the atmosphere for air pollution, using the Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) to track concentrations of gases like nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulfur dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and aerosols. On each pass, the satellite can scan a swath of air some 2,600 km (1,616 mi) wide, allowing it to map out the whole Earth every day. That information will be used to make air-quality forecasts and help guide other relevant decisions.
Sentinel-5P has already made quite a journey ahead of its eventual destination in orbit. The satellite was assembled and tested at the Airbus Defence and Space facility in Stevenage, UK, before it was flown on a huge Antonov plane from London Stansted Airport to Moscow. From there, it was flown to Arkhangelsk in northwest Russia, then trekked by train the last 250 km (155 mi) to Plesetsk.
The satellite arrived on Friday September 1, and will be tested and prepared over the next few weeks before its launch on October 13.
"I'm very proud of my team and our partners at Airbus Defence and Space, and of course the Netherlands Space Office who we developed the satellite instrument with," says Kevin McMullan, the Sentinel-5P project manager. "The campaign to launch Sentinel-5P is now well and truly underway and we are very much looking forward to launch on the 13 October and then making sure the satellite is fully commissioned so that it can start its job of delivering vital information to monitor air pollution."