Payload preparations begin for Arianespace’s upcoming Soyuz mission with Sentinel-1A
The first spacecraft for Europe’s Copernicus Earth observation program – Sentinel-1A – is now undergoing pre-launch checkout at the Spaceport, readying it for an April 3 liftoff on Arianespace’s next Soyuz flight from French Guiana.
Sentinel-1A is being put through its paces inside the Spaceport’s S1A payload preparation facility, where the radar satellite was transported following this week’s arrival in French Guiana aboard an An-124 cargo jetliner.
During the initial preparations, Sentinel-1A was removed from its shipping container in clean room conditions, then raised to a vertical position for the start-up of processing.
Sentinel-1A is to deliver essential data for Copernicus, a European Space Agency (ESA) program in partnership with the European Commission – which will create a sustainable European satellite network to collect and evaluate environmental data for civil safety and humanitarian purposes.
Specifically, Sentinel-1A was designed and built by Thales Alenia Space for environmental tasks that include maritime surveillance and monitoring of sea ice, oil spills, landslides and floods. These tasks will assist in reconnaissance and operational support activities in response to natural disasters, for which the latest data is required as rapidly as possible.
The Sentinel-1B “sister” satellite will be launched a few years after Sentinel-1A, to improve revisit intervals and allow the entire planet’s mapping in only six days. Both spacecraft are based on the Prima platform developed by Thales Alenia Space on behalf of the Italian space agency, and carry a C-band SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) radar instrument developed by Airbus Defence and Space that allows Earth imaging through cloud and rain, in day or night conditions.
Sentinel programs being developed by ESA within the scope of Copernicus include five satellite families: Sentinel-1, designed to ensure the continuity of ERS and Envisat radar data; Sentinel-2 and -3, dedicated to Earth and ocean monitoring; and Sentinel-4 and -5, for meteorology and climatology, with a focus on studying the Earth atmosphere’s composition.
This upcoming launch will mark Arianespace’s seventh Soyuz mission from Europe’s Spaceport since the medium-lift vehicle’s 2011 introduction, as well as the company’s third overall flight conducted from the equatorial launch site in 2014.