Sentinel-1A, the first of a planned fleet of ESA satellites central to the European Commission's Copernicus environmental monitoring program, has begun its operational life. Following the completion of its commissioning and transfer to the team in charge of its operation, users now have access to data from the satellite, which will provide all-weather, day and night radar imaging for land and ocean services.
Launched on April 3 of this year, Sentinel-1A returned its first shots of Earth a couple of weeks later and, performed eight anti-collision maneuvers to avoid space debris before reaching its target orbit on August 7. The commissioning process was completed on September 23, after the satellite, its instruments, data acquisition and data procedures were given the thumbs up.
"The time has arrived for the satellite to exploit its extraordinary capabilities and start helping users," said Project Manager Ramón Torres, who led the development team and formally handed over the satellite to the Mission Manager, Pierre Potin. "Of course, saying farewell is always difficult, but I am confident that it is in capable and safe hands for the next stage of its journey."
However, the satellite will continue to be monitored, operated and controlled from ESA's Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany.
Sentinel-1A is one of the two-satellite Sentinel-1 constellation, which is itself the first in a series of six Sentinel missions intended to replace current Earth observation missions that have reached or are nearing the end of their operational lifespan. The Sentinel-1 constellation will be completed and provide the ability to image the entire Earth every six days after 1A's identical twin, Sentinel-1B, is launched in 2016.
Even before technically becoming operational, Sentinel-1A was proving its worth. Just days after its launch it contributed to maps of floods in Namibia and then surveyed the Balkans to provide data to aid flood relief efforts there the following month. It also provided radar images to help map the rupture caused by the earthquake in northern California on August 24, as well as capturing the towing of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the west coast of Italy (below).
Now that Sentinel-1A is operational, it will provide data for a range of operational services and scientific research across a variety of applications, including the monitoring of Arctic sea-ice, routine sea-ice mapping, marine environment surveillance, monitoring land-surface for motion risks, forest mapping, water and soil management and mapping to support humanitarian aid and crisis situations.
The Sentinel data can be freely accessed by registering via the Sentinel-1 Scientific Data Hub.