Airbus Defence and Space

Space in daily life All news

Airbus Defence and Space takes delivery of new Earth Sentinel

GMES satellite Sentinel-2A takes shape

The Sentinel-2A GMES satellite is taking shape at Airbus Defence and Space’s Friedrichshafen site

The delivery of the pre-integrated platform for the Sentinel-2A satellite marks the beginning of a new space project for Airbus Defence and Space in Friedrichshafen. This satellite platform, constructed by the Airbus Defence and Space engineers in Barajas, Madrid, is already equipped with its propulsion system, heat shield and complete wiring harness. The integration and test team at the Airbus Defence and Space site in Friedrichshafen, led by Thilo Nacke, will now spend the next two years completing the final stages of the satellite’s construction in the cleanroom as well as installing and testing the measuring instruments required for its mission under the auspices of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Sentinel-2A is the first of two Sentinel-2 satellites designed to deliver continuously updated high-resolution data for the provision of initial GMES operational services for agricultural (land use/cover, imperviousness), forest management (forest density, damage, forest fires), civil protection (management, early warning) and humanitarian relief applications. Sentinel-2 will also be used to monitor natural disasters such as flooding, volcanic eruptions, subsidence and landslides.

Sentinel-2 is the optical mission in the GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) programme, an initiative by the European Commission and ESA to set up a sustainable European network for recording and analysing environmental data.

Once in orbit, Sentinel-2A will support land monitoring services throughout its design life of at least seven and a quarter years. The satellite, weighing 1.1 metric tons, is scheduled for launch into a sun-synchronous, polar orbit at an altitude of 786 kilometres in 2013. Project manager Heinz Sontag points out that this Earth observation satellite is one of the most powerful ever launched, and will be the first with a period that allows it to gather image data of all land masses around the globe within no more than ten days. Heinz adds: “It records optical data on 13 spectral channels, ranging from visible light to near infrared, from which a wealth of biophysical and geophysical information can be derived and converted into maps for numerous applications.”


Sentinel-2A will later be joined by Sentinel-2B in 2015. This duo will halve the time required to complete a full global monitoring cycle, enabling seasonal and year-to-year changes to be mapped with unprecedented accuracy.

More about GMES

GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) is a European Earth monitoring programme that utilises satellites and in-situ sensors. Its purpose is to develop and operate a complex Earth observation infrastructure, which will supply scientists and civil authorities with up-to-date information to enable them to better protect the environment, improve the management of humanitarian crises and safeguard our security.

The programme focuses on integrating and coordinating diverse activities at a European level, in the fields of Earth observation and land monitoring. This involves making more efficient use of existing satellite systems (GMES contributing missions) and the data they provide by setting up sustainable operational systems specifically designed to meet the requirements of the GMES missions (The Sentinel satellites) and coordinating the information given by in-situ sensors.

Photos © Airbus Defence and Space / Alfred Ruttloff

More about the Sentinel satellites

Earth ObservationEnvironmentGMES