20 October 2016 – The Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite has taken another step towards being fully ‘operational’ as the first data from its Ocean and Land Colour Instrument are made available to monitor the health of our planet.
Following its launch in February, the satellite and instruments have been thoroughly tested and fine-tuned – leading to this important milestone.
Carrying a suite of instruments, Sentinel-3A is arguably the most complex of all the Copernicus Sentinels.
It has been designed to measure Earth’s oceans, land, ice and atmosphere to monitor large-scale global dynamics and to provide critical near-realtime information for numerous ocean, land and weather applications.
The Sentinel-3 validation team, a group of expert users, has been receiving sample products since May. Their feedback is essential to both ESA and Eumetsat to ensure the data are of the highest quality, as is needed for the myriad of operational applications that the mission will serve.
At the ‘end of commissioning’ review in July, it was noted that a couple of points had to be addressed before the first data were officially released to the public.
Susanne Mecklenburg, ESA’s Sentinel-3 mission manager, said, “It is imperative that these first-level data are the best quality possible so we are being extremely careful. It is now very gratifying to see data from the satellite’s Ocean and Land Colour Instrument being released to users worldwide.
“Data from the other two instruments – the Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer and Radar Altimeter – will be made available in November and December, respectively.”
Offering new eyes on Earth, the Ocean and Land Colour Instrument will monitor the global oceans, and inland waters, including phytoplankton, water quality, harmful algal blooms, sediment transport in coastal areas, El Niño and La Niña events, and climate change.
It will also support observations of vegetation and crop conditions, as well as provide estimates of atmospheric aerosol and clouds – all of which bring significant benefits to society through more informed decision-making.
While the operations of the Sentinel-3A satellite are carried out by Eumetsat, the mission is managed jointly by ESA and Eumetsat.
ESA is responsible for the land data products and Eumetsat for the marine products – all of which are made available for application through Copernicus services.
Hilary Wilson, Eumetsat’s Sentinel-3 project manager, said, “The release of Sentinel-3A’s first operational data is the culmination of a lot of hard work by ESA, Eumetsat and the expert user teams.
“It represents an important milestone for the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service and also for the wider marine monitoring community.
“Routine operations of the satellite have been proceeding smoothly since Eumetsat took over this responsibility in July and we are now focusing on bringing the remaining marine products to this community.”