The first images of Earth from the ocean-monitoring satellite Sentinel-3B, launched on 25 April, have been released today and are repaying the faith invested in its crucial mission.
Wednesday, 09 May 2018
Experts are meeting at the Darmstadt headquarters of the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) this week to examine the data being sent back to Earth as each of the spacecraft’s instruments is switched on.
The stunning first image over Europe shows the east coast of Greenland, captured at 13:20 UTC on Monday 7 May. It shows sea ice swirled into eddies by wind stress and underlying currents.
The image was taken less than two weeks after Sentinel-3B’s launch by the first of its instruments to be switched on, the Ocean and Land Colour Instrument (OLCI).
The Sentinel-3 mission
“The Sentinel-3 constellation establishes the European backbone of a space-based, global ocean-monitoring system,” EUMETSAT Director-General Alain Ratier said.
“These images are a first demonstration that Sentinel-3B will deliver on its promise…”Alain Ratier
“These first images are the first demonstration that Copernicus Sentinel-3B will deliver on its promise to usher in a new era for operational oceanography and flow-on benefits for human safety, businesses and industry. They will amplify the benefits of the Sentinel-3 mission for ocean forecasting and the blue economy.”
European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elzbieta Bienkowska welcomed the successful launch of the seventh Copernicus Sentinel and the additional data it is now providing.
“This new satellite will deliver valuable images of how our oceans and land are changing,” Commissioner Bienkowska said.
“This will not only speed up the response to natural disasters but also create new business opportunities. Earth observation is a larger market than you would think – a driver for research discoveries, a provider of highly skilled jobs and a developer of innovative services and applications.”
The Ocean and Land Colour Instrument
The OLCI monitors ocean colour – crucial information of global importance for climate change monitoring – as well as observations of vegetation, crop conditions and inland water when observing over land.
Pierre Yves Le Traon, Scientific Director at Mercator Ocean, which operates the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service (CMEMS), said OLCI observations from Sentinel-3A and -3B will be merged by CMEMS to better capture rapid and fine scale changes in phytoplankton concentration, primary production and carbon dioxide uptake by the oceans.
“This is also essential to monitor coastal waters and coastal water quality threats such as eutrophication and the development of harmful algae blooms,” Le Traon said.
The successful launch of Sentinel-3B represents the full deployment of the two-satellite Sentinel-3 mission.
Sentinel-3B is currently flying in tandem with its “twin”, Sentinel-3A, which was launched in February 2016. The satellites are expected to fly in this arrangement, 30 seconds apart, for the next several months, to allow cross calibration of the spacecraft’s instruments.
Then, they will be moved 140 degrees apart, as requested by the users of the mission’s data, to provide the best possible coverage and frequency.
EUMETSAT, which already operates Sentinel-3A on behalf of the European Commission, will take over operations of Sentinel-3B after completion of the current seven-month commissioning phase, which is led by the European Space Agency. EUMETSAT processes and disseminates marine-related data from the mission, while ESA is responsible for the land-related data.
Sentinel-3A has been producing extremely high-quality data for two years.
The mission is one of six Sentinel missions deployed and exploited by EUMETSAT and ESA as the space component of the European Union’s flagship Copernicus Earth observation programme.
ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes Josef Aschbacher said: “The launch of Sentinel-3B completed the first batch of Sentinels that we are delivering for Copernicus.
“We finished the launch and early orbit phase in a record time and we are now getting on with the task of commissioning the satellite for service.”