Airbus Defence and Space

Sentinel-2: New satellite to watch over Earth’s landmasses

Friedrichshafen, 17 April 2008 – Airbus Defence and Space continues its success story in the field of Earth observation satellites. Airbus Defence and Space has been appointed the prime contractor to lead a European consortium to develop and build Sentinel-2, the first optical satellite in the Sentinel series. The main industrial contract worth €195 million was signed today, by Volker Liebig, ESA´s Director of Earth observation, Evert Dudok, CEO Airbus Defence and Space Satellites and Uwe Minne, Airbus Defence and Space´s Director of Earth Observation and Science in Friedrichshafen (Germany).

  • ESA and Airbus Defence and Space sign development and supply contract
  • GMES satellite for environmental observation and security
  • Airbus Defence and Space continues success story in Earth observation

“This satellite is an important element of GMES and will enable Europe to constantly observe environmental changes“, said Volker Liebig, the Director for Earth Observation of ESA.

"Airbus Defence and Space has an outstanding track record in developing and building Earth observation satel-lites, including ERS, Metop, Champ and TerraSAR-X. We are proud to be selected by ESA to provide a technology which will help us to improve our environment and to keep our planet safe and healthy", said Uwe Minne, Director for Earth Observation and Science of Airbus Defence and Space GmbH.

Sentinel-2 is the medium spatial resolution optical mission of the GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) programme, an initiative of ESA and the European Commis-sion that aims to set up a permanent European network for the recording and analysis of environmental and security relevant data.

The multi-spectral instrument (MSI) will generate optical images in 13 spectral channels in the visible and short-wave infrared range down to a resolution of 10 metres with an image width of 290 kilometres. This will enable Sentinel-2 to provide a permanent record of comprehensive data to help inform the agriculture sector (utilisation, coverage, sealing), forestry industry (population, damage, forest fires), disaster control (management, early warning) and humanitarian relief programmes. Sentinel-2 will also be able to observe natural disasters such as floods, volcanic eruptions, subsidence and landslides.

In the Sentinel-2 mission programme, Airbus Defence and Space in Friedrichshafen is responsible for the satel-lite’s system design and platform, as well as for satellite integration and testing. Airbus Defence and Space Toulouse will supply the multi-spectral imaging instrument (MSI), and Airbus Defence and Space Spain will be in charge of the satellite’s structure and will produce its thermal equipment and cable harness. The industrial core team also comprises Jena Optronik (Germany), Boostec (France), Sener and GMV (Spain).

From 2012 onwards, the 1.1-metric-ton satellite will circle the Earth in a sun-synchronous, polar orbit at an altitude of 786 kilometres, fully covering the planet’s landmasses in just ten days.

Sentinel-2 is intended to image the Earth’s landmasses from its orbit for at least 7.25 years, thus securing the continuity of optical Earth observation as a successor to the Spot and Landsat satellites currently in operation. In addition, its on-board resources will be designed so that the mission can be prolonged by an extra five years.

It is planned to extend the overall Sentinel-2 system by a second satellite later on so that by operating the two satellites simultaneously, it will be possible to cover the planet’s landmasses every five days.

About GMES

GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) is an EU led initiative, while the GMES Space Component is led by ESA. GMES aims to continuously monitor the Earth’s system using ground and space-based sensors. Its objective is to provide politicians and experts with up-to-date information to support their wide-ranging decisions concerning the environment, the economy, traffic and security.

The aim is to integrate Europe’s different activities in geosciences and Earth observation, using existing ground- and satellite-based systems and their data as efficiently as possible, and setting up sustainable operational systems specially tailored to this range of tasks. The Sentinel satellite series will cover the dedicated space segment of the GMES programme in Europe.

Airbus Defence and Space in Friedrichshafen is also making a key contribution to the Sentinel-1 radar satellite in providing its C-band radar instrument.

About Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space, a wholly owned subsidiary of AIRBUS Group, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2007, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover of €3.5 billion and 12,000 em-ployees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Its three main areas of activity are Airbus Defence and Space for launchers and orbital infrastructure, and Airbus Defence and Space for spacecraft and ground segment, and its wholly owned subsidiary Airbus Defence and Space for the development and delivery of satellite services.

AIRBUS Group is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2007, AIRBUS Group generated revenues of €39.1 billion and employed a workforce of more than 116, 000.

Media Contacts:


Matthieu Duvelleroy (Airbus Defence and Space FR), Phone: +33 (0) 1 77 75 80 32

Jeremy Close (Airbus Defence and Space UK), Phone: +44 (0)1 438 77 3872

Mathias Pikelj (Airbus Defence and Space GER), Phone: +49 (0) 7545 8 9123

Francisco Lechón (Airbus Defence and Space SP), Phone: +34 (0) 91 586 37 41

Sentinel-2 at a glance:



Total mission duration:

15 years

Service life in orbit:

7.25 years, (optional extension by 5 years)


polar, sun-synchronous


786 km high

Observation area:

from - 56° to + 83 ° latitude

Repetition rate:

5 days (with 2 satellites)

Planned launch date:

October 2012






Satellite type:


Launch weight:

1.1 metric tons


3 m x 1.7 m x 2.25 m

Solar generator:

5,6 m², 1400 W (EOL), GaAs triple-junction cells

Data memory:

mission data 2 Tbit (EOL)






Multi-spectral instrument (MSI):

13 spectral bands,


VNIR & SWIR (443 nm - 2190 nm)


10, 20 and 60 m

Swath width:

290 km

Max. recording time per orbit:

40 min

Earth ObservationEnvironmentSecurityGMESOptic