Readying our next #Vega mission to help monitor the Earth’s environment: #Sentinel-2B arrives in French Guiana
What is Sentinel-2?
The Sentinel-2 mission is a land monitoring constellation of two satellites that provide high resolution optical imagery and provide continuity for the current SPOT and Landsat missions.
The mission provides a global coverage of the Earth's land surface every 10 days with one satellite and 5 days with 2 satellites, making the data of great use in on-going studies.
The satellites are equipped with the state-of-the-art MSI (Multispectral Imager) instrument, that offers high-resolution optical imagery.
Europe’s Sentinel-2B arrives for its Arianespace Vega launch in March
Sentinel-2B has touched down in French Guiana, bringing the second satellite for Europe’s Copernicus program closer to its early March orbiting by Arianespace on a Vega lightweight launch vehicle.
Arriving at Félix Eboué Airport near Cayenne last week, Sentinel-2B was delivered by a chartered Antonov An-124 cargo jetliner. Following its unloading process, the satellite was readied for transfer by road to the Spaceport.
As a follow-on to Sentinel-2A – lofted by another Vega in 2015 – this latest spacecraft will become part of the European Union’s Earth observation satellite fleet called Copernicus. The program’s goals are the provision of information for agricultural and forestry practices, assisting the management of food security, tracking pollution in lakes and coastal waters, along with delivering disaster mapping and helping humanitarian relief efforts.
Vega launches for Sentinel-2B and -2A
The Sentinel-2 satellites result from a close collaboration involving the European Space Agency, the European Commission, service providers and data users. The mission was designed and built by a consortium of some 60 companies led by Airbus Defence and Space, with support from the CNES French space agency to optimize image quality and by the DLR German Aerospace Center to improve data recovery using optical communications.
Since Arianespace’s launch of Sentinel-2A in June 2015, the forerunner spacecraft has been providing imagery for the European Union Copernicus Land Monitoring Service and others.
After Sentinel-2B is orbited by Arianespace on Flight VV09 – signifying the ninth mission performed by the lightweight Vega launcher – the satellite constellation will cover the globe every five days.
SENTINEL-2B LAUNCH PREPARATIONS OFF TO A FLYING START
12 January 2017
Some of us may be easing ourselves gently into the New Year, but for the team readying Sentinel-2B for liftoff on 7 March it’s full steam ahead.
On 5 January, the satellite was shipped from ESA’s site in the Netherlands – where it had been undergoing testing since June – and arrived safe and sound in French Guiana the following day.
The Sentinel-2 mission is designed as two satellites working in tandem – Sentinel-2A has been in orbit since June 2015.
Offering ‘colour vision’ for Europe’s Copernicus programme, the mission combines high-resolution and novel multispectral capabilities.
Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director for Earth Observation Programmes, said, “Since both satellites have a 290 km-wide coverage path and they orbit 180° apart, the time it takes to image the globe will be cut in half to five days once Sentinel-2B is operational.”
The mission mainly provides information for agriculture and forestry and for helping to manage food security. Satellite images are used to determine key information about plants, such as chlorophyll and water content.
This is particularly important for predicting yields effectively and applications related to Earth’s vegetation.
Agricultural fields from Sentinel-2A
As well as monitoring plant growth, the mission maps change in land cover and monitors the world’s forests. It also provides information on pollution in lakes and coastal waters.
Now in the cleanroom at Europe’s spaceport, Sentinel-2B is already on its stand for the start of a seven-week campaign to test and prepare it to be lofted into orbit on a Vega rocket.
ESA’s launch campaign manager, Paolo Laberinti, said, “It’s good to see that our delicate cargo arrived safe and well.
"We’ve already been able to set up all the technical equipment that we use to test the satellite and connect it to its electrical equipment – so that it’s ready for testing.
“We are off to a flying start and eager to get our baby into orbit so that it can join its twin and do the job of continuously delivering images to monitor our changing world.”
Concurrently, the Sentinel-2 mission control team at ESA's operations centre in Germany has already begun intensive simulation training for the critical launch and early orbit phase.
Sentinel-2B is scheduled for liftoff on 7 March at 01:49 GMT (02:49 CET; 22:49 local time on 6 March).
Preparations move ahead for Arianespace’s first Vega launch of 2017 from the Spaceport
Activity for Arianespace’s initial mission in 2017 with the lightweight Vega is fully underway in French Guiana, where the launch vehicle’s build-up is starting and its Sentinel-2B payload has begun the pre-flight checkout process in preparation for an early March liftoff.
This Vega mission is part of another busy year for Arianespace’s launch services, with a total of 12 flights targeted during the 12 months from French Guiana using its family of vehicles, composed of Vega in the light-lift category, the medium-lift Soyuz, and the heavy-weight Ariane 5.
Current planning – to be confirmed based on payload availability – foresees up to seven Ariane 5 launches during the year, joined by three missions utilizing Vega and two with Soyuz.
Fast-paced launch activity in the first months of 2017
Arianespace’s reactivity will be demonstrated by the six flights targeted during a three-month timeframe from January 27 (when the year’s first mission will lift off, using a Soyuz to orbit a telecommunications satellite) through the second half of April.
Sentinel-2B is undergoing its pre-launch checkout in the Spaceport’s S1B payload processing facility.
The upcoming Vega mission – designated Flight VV09 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system – will be included in this busy period.
During activity for Flight VV09, the Vega’s P80 first stage was rolled out this week to the Spaceport’s SLV launch site, where the vehicle will be built up on the launch pad. The P80 stage incorporates one of largest single-unit, solid-propellant rocket engines ever built using filament winding technology.
Standing almost 11 meters tall, and with a diameter of three meters, the P80 has an overall mass of 95 metric tons and burns approximately 88 tons of solid propellant in slightly less than two minutes. The P80 generates 300 tons of thrust to power Vega during its initial ascent from French Guiana.
Italy’s Avio Group, through the ELV subsidiary, is responsible for Vega’s development and manufacturing, with the vehicle being evolved in a European Space Agency (ESA) sponsored program since June 1998.
Vega’s Flight VV09 to expand the Copernicus satellite fleet
The Sentinel-2B payload to be lofted by Flight VV09 will join the European Union’s Earth observation satellite fleet called Copernicus. This spacecraft currently is being readied in the Spaceport’s S1B payload processing facility.
Goals of the Copernicus program are the provision of information for agricultural and forestry practices, assisting the management of food security, tracking pollution in lakes and coastal waters, along with delivering disaster mapping and helping humanitarian relief efforts.
Arianespace orbited the Sentinel-2A satellite in June 2015 on another Vega mission, with this forerunner spacecraft providing imagery for the European Union Copernicus Land Monitoring Service and others.
Development of the Sentinel-2 satellites results from a close collaboration involving the European Space Agency, the European Commission, service providers and data users. Airbus Defence and Space led consortium of some 60 companies in designing the mission and building the spacecraft, supported by the CNES French space agency in optimizing image quality and by the DLR German Aerospace Center in improving data recovery using optical communications.
FUEL SENTINEL-2B: DONE
16 February 2017
As liftoff day draws closer, the Sentinel-2B 'to do' list is shrinking as tasks are ticked off, including the tricky process of fuelling the satellite. And, even despite having to do a few unexpected jobs, everything is on track for launch.
The Copernicus Sentinel-2B satellite will ride into space on a Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on 7 March at 01:49 GMT (02:49 CET; 22:49 local time on 6 March).
It will join its twin, Sentinel-2A, which has been in orbit since June 2015. With each providing 290 km-wide coverage, the time it takes to image the globe will be cut in half to five days.
Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, said “This will be the fifth Sentinel launch and we are on course to build up the world’s most ambitious operational Earth observing system.
“This success is a prime example of how Europe can achieve great things together. Copernicus combines the political prowess and leadership of the European Union with the unique technical skills of ESA together with space industry to develop a truly European project.”
The mission couples high resolution with novel spectral capabilities to provide images of Earth for Europe’s Copernicus environmental monitoring programme.
These images are used for practical applications such as monitoring vegetation growth and changes in the way land is used as well as for checking on pollution in lakes and coastal waters.
The Sentinel-2B satellite has been at the launch site since the beginning of the year. Here, it is being tested and readied for liftoff.
One of the most recent tasks was to fuel the satellite – a particularly delicate operation. Hydrazine is extremely toxic, so only a few specialists wearing ‘scape’ suits remain in the cleanroom.
Working on the solar wing
Once filled with 133 kg of hydrazine, the satellite was switched on to check that everything was okay and then the tank was pressurised.
Prior to fuelling, a few unexpected jobs had to be done. To avoid potential problems in orbit, some of the solar wing connectors had to be carefully checked, which required opening the wing. The team also had to change a component used for ‘initial attitude acquisition’.
While these things weren’t on the ‘to do’ list, they highlight the importance of the final checks. They were resolved easily and didn’t affect the schedule.
While preparations progressed in the cleanroom, the Vega rocket has been installed piece by piece in the launch tower.
Another milestone was passed last week at ESA’s mission control centre in Germany, from where the satellite will be controlled, confirming that they are ‘green’ for launch.
Applying fairing logo
Back in Kourou, the flight readiness review and another meeting have confirmed that the satellite and the launcher are ready to progress to ‘combined operations’, which means that the teams can start the jobs that entail joining the satellite to the rocket.
Paolo Laberinti, ESA’s Sentinel-2 launch campaign manager, said, “Things are going really well. Indeed, we did have to fix a couple of unexpected problems but this is all part of a launch campaign and by working long shifts ESA and Airbus Defence and Space have been able to keep to the schedule.
“The satellite is also now joined to the launch adapter, but next on this list is to remove the last ‘red tag’ items and seal the satellite in the rocket fairing.
“Encapsulating the satellite in the fairing will be emotional – the day we say farewell because we will never see our baby again.”
Vega and its Sentinel-2B payload are readied for Arianespace’s next light-lift mission
Arianespace’s third flight of 2017 is moving into the final phase of preparations, with the lightweight Vega launcher’s basic assembly completed and its Sentinel-2B Earth observation satellite encapsulated for liftoff on March 6 from the Spaceport in French Guiana.
Sentinel-2B is encapsulated by its Vega payload fairing at the Spaceport.
Underscoring the versatility of Arianespace’s launcher family, this flight follows year-opening missions with the company’s other two launch vehicles: performed February 14 with the heavy-lift Ariane 5 to orbit the SKY Brasil-1 and Telkom 3S telecommunications satellites for Brazil and Indonesia; and on January 27, utilizing a medium-lift Soyuz to loft Hispasat 36W-1, Europe’s first “SmallGEO” relay platform.
Vega has undergone its buildup on the pad during activity at the Spaceport’s ZLV launch site, involving stacking of the vehicle’s solid propellant P80 first stage, Zefiro 23 second stage and Zefiro 9 third stage, topped off by the liquid bi-propellant AVUM upper stage.
Vega’s ninth mission from the Spaceport
The AVUM upper stage is hoisted for installation atop Vega at the Spaceport’s ZLV launch site.
Designated Flight VV09 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system, the March 6 liftoff will be Vega’s ninth mission since the February 2012 service startup of this launcher – which is manufactured by Italy’s Avio Group through its ELV subsidiary with the Italian Space Agency, and has been evolved in a European Space Agency-sponsored program.
The Sentinel-2B passenger for Flight VV09 will join the European Union’s Earth observation satellite fleet called Copernicus, which has the goals of providing information for agricultural and forestry practices, assisting the management of food security, tracking pollution in lakes and coastal waters, along with delivering disaster mapping and helping humanitarian relief efforts.
As part of Sentinel-2B’s processing at the Spaceport, the satellite underwent a solar panel deployment test this month and was then fueled with 133 kg. of hydrazine propellant and enclosed in the Vega’s payload fairing.
Arianespace at the service of Europe’s Sentinel satellites
Sentinel-2B’s launch will follow the orbiting of Sentinel-2A on a previous Vega mission performed in June 2015. Development of the Sentinel-2 satellites results from a close collaboration involving the European Space Agency, the European Commission, service providers and data users. A consortium of some 60 companies was led by Airbus in designing the mission and building the spacecraft, supported by the French CNES space agency and the DLR German Aerospace Center.
The March 6 mission with Sentinel-2B continues a busy year for Arianespace’s launch services, with a total of 12 flights targeted during 2017 from French Guiana using the light-lift Vega, medium-lift Soyuz and heavy-weight Ariane 5.
Europe’s next Sentinel land imaging satellite mated to rocket booster
Ground crews have mounted the fully-fueled Sentinel 2B spacecraft, the next mission in Europe’s multibillion-dollar Copernicus Earth observation satellite fleet, on top of a Vega rocket inside a protective gantry on its launch pad in French Guiana for blastoff next month.
The satellite was encapsulated inside the Vega rocket’s Swiss-made composite nose shroud Feb. 15, then transferred to the Vega launch pad Feb. 18, where the four-stage booster was already assembled and awaiting the arrival of the payload.
Sentinel 2B is scheduled to lift off at 0149 GMT March 7 (8:49 p.m. EST March 6) on top of the Vega rocket, which will fly on its ninth mission since debuting in February 2012.
Next month’s launch will be the third Arianespace mission of the year, and the first Vega launch of 2017.
The Sentinel 2B spacecraft carries a sharp-eyed camera — sensitive to 13 different nuances of color — designed to paint a broad swath 180 miles (290 kilometers) wide as the satellite circles Earth in polar orbit at an altitude around 488 miles (786 kilometers) above the planet.
Built by Airbus Defense and Space, Sentinel 2B follows the identical Sentinel 2A Earth observatory launched in June 2015. With two Sentinel 2 platforms in orbit, users will be able to glimpse the same location on Earth every five days.
The European Commission’s Copernicus program has several lines of Sentinel satellites. While the Sentinel 2 series is devoted to land imaging — roughly equivalent to the U.S. government’s Landsat missions — other Sentinel satellites carry radar and atmospheric sensors to monitor pollution, ice sheets, oil spills and other environmental concerns.
Sentinel 2B will be the fifth Copernicus satellite launched overall since the Sentinel deployments began in 2014.
ESA manages the satellites and launches for the Copernicus program on behalf of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body.
The satellite was fueled with its supply of in-orbit maneuvering propellant before encapsulation inside the Vega rocket’s payload fairing, giving Sentinel 2B a launch mass around 2,500 pounds (about 1,140 kilograms).
Once hoisted into the Vega launch pad’s mobile gantry, the fairing and Sentinel 2B were lowered on top of the rocket’s fourth stage. Ground crews successfully completed functional checks of the satellite Feb. 19.
Sentinel 2B is designed for a mission of at least seven years.
The images below show fueling of Sentinel 2B, encapsulation of spacecraft inside the fairing, and its arrival at the Vega launch pad before attachment atop the 98-foot-tall (30-meter) rocket.