Airbus Defence and Space

The Sentinel satellites

The Sentinel satellites

The twin Sentinel-1 satellites are designed to provide radar-based Earth observation imagery and will supply data of significantly higher quality than its predecessor missions.


The first satellite, Sentinel-1A, was successfully launched in April 2014, to be followed in 2016 by the second satellite, Sentinel-1B.

The C-band radar instrument for this mission, based on sophisticated synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology including all electronic subsystems, has been developed and constructed by Airbus Defence and Space.


For the first time, radar will enable continuous operation (round the clock). Sentinel-1 will be used for observing environmental events such as forest fires, landslides and floods. It will also provide information and support to assistance, rescue and relief missions during disasters, where it is vital to have up-to-date data as quickly as possible.


In addition, the data can also be used for evaluating longer-term processes. For example, observing melting ice masses in Greenland can supply important data upon which to base conclusions regarding the extent of rises in sea level.


Sentinel-2 also consists of two satellites. Airbus Defence and Space is prime contractor for this mission, which will supply optical images ranging from the near-visible to the shortwave infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum in a total of 13 spectral bands with resolutions of 10, 20 or 60 meters and a swath width of 290 km.


The data will be used primarily for monitoring natural disasters (floods, forest fires, landslides, erosion) and in the fields of land use, soil sealing, spatial planning, forestry management and humanitarian aid and as well as for coastal monitoring Sentinel-2A is scheduled for launch in 2015, with Sentinel-2B to follow in 2016. Together, they will be capable of imaging the entire land surface of the planet in only five days.


Sentinel-3 is dedicated to oceanography and the monitoring of vegetation. Its instruments will record parameters such as the topography of the oceans and seas, as well as the surface temperature and colour of the oceans, seas and landmasses, to a high end accuracy and reliability.


To perform these tasks, Sentinel-3 will be equipped with up to four instruments. Airbus Defence and Space has been selected to supply one of these instruments, called the Microwave Radiometer, to determine the amount of humidity contained in the path of the radar pulses, as well as a number of satellite subsystems for this mission.

Airbus Defence and Space has also delivered two Cryo Cooler systems for the Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR) instrument. Sentinel-3 A & B satellites will be launched on a Rokot launch vehicle, through the joint venture Eurockot of Airbus Defence and Space and Khrunichev.


The Sentinel-4 mission will concentrate on services such as analysing the chemical composition of the atmosphere and monitoring air quality. Its main task is to measure concentrations of aerosols, trace gases and cloud cover in the lower troposphere. Airbus Defence and Space is the prime contractor for the development and construction of the two spectrometers for the Sentinel-4 mission.


From geostationary orbit, the two spectrometers will make it possible for the first time to continuously monitor the composition of the atmosphere and air quality over Europe, North Africa and the Sahel region.


The aim is to generate an hourly update of air quality data. The two instruments are to be launched successively in 2019 and 2027 on board Meteosat Third Generation MTG-S weather satellites and will each operate for a period of eight years.



Sentinel-5 Precursor (Sentinel-5P) will be the first satellite dedicated to monitoring atmospheric chemistry for the Copernicus programme. Airbus Defence and Space is the prime contractor for the satellite. It will ensure there is continuity of data to monitor the ozone hole and tropospheric pollution as current climate monitoring missions come to the end of their lives. Sentinel-5P will fill the gap between current atmospheric capabilities from low polar orbit and the launch of Sentinel-5 which is envisaged for around 2021.

The satellite will carry the Tropospheric Ozone Monitoring Instrument, or TROPOMI, primed by Airbus Defence and Space subsidiary Dutch Space, with inputs from Surrey Satellites). This advanced imaging absorption spectrometer will provide data on atmospheric trace gases and aerosols that affect air quality and climate. It measures ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and other atmospheric pollutants at a higher resolution than currently available. Sentinel-5 Precursor will be launched in 2016, through joint venture Eurockot of Airbus Defence and Space and Khrunichev.


The high-precision Sentinel-5 instrument will be developed and constructed by the prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space. The instrument will monitor the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere globally on a daily basis by taking measurements of trace gases and aerosols that have an impact on the climate and air quality. Sentinel-5 will be installed on a MetOP Second Generation (MetOP-SG) satellite and fly in a roughly 800 kilometre polar orbit around the Earth.

The high-tech instrument is expected to be delivered in 2019, while the launch of the satellite is scheduled for 2021. With a swath width of around 2,670 kilometres, the Sentinel-5 will provide daily global coverage of the Earth’s atmosphere with an unprecedented spatial resolution of 7x7 km2 at nadir, allowing atmospheric and climate scientists to accurately detect and analyse emission sources.


This includes determining the concentration of trace gases as significant components in the atmosphere, such as ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, methane, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and aerosols.

At the heart of Sentinel-5 is an ultraviolet, visible, near-infrared and shortwave infrared (UVNS) imaging spectrometer. This large spectral bandwidth is an absolute necessity for measuring the types of molecules named above. The mass-optimised instrument is weighing around 270 kilogrammes and has a service life of more than seven years.


Jason-CS/Sentinel-6 for which Airbus Defence and Space is prime contractor to ESA, is a mission to carry out high-precision measurements of ocean surface topography.


The satellite will measure its distance to the ocean surface with an accuracy of a few centimetres and use this data to map the topography globally, repeating the cycle every ten days. Observing changes in sea-surface height using such a high level of accuracy provides insights into global sea levels, the speed and direction of ocean currents, and ocean heat storage. The measurements made are vital for modelling the oceans and predicting rises in sea levels.

The Sentinel-6 mission is a continuation of a programme of global ocean-surface measurements made by satellites that began in 1992. Weighing around 1 tonne and flying at an altitude of around 1,300 kilometres, the Jason-CS/Sentinel-6 satellite will ensure that measurements are carried out on a continuous basis from 2020. The satellite is designed to orbit for five and a half years.





User Ground Segments - Airbus Defence and Space is priming the first of the User Ground Segments (PDGS), which has received customer acceptance in September 2014. Building on close to 25 years’ experience in delivering major ground segments for remote-sensing satellites such as Spot and Helios, Space Systems secured the Sentinel-1 user ground segment (S1 PDGS) contract in June 2010.


Via a network of receiving stations across Europe, S1 PDGS enables satellite programming and data reception, as well as image processing, archiving and calibration and delivery of images to end-users. Space Systems is additionally hosting a support centre at its Toulouse site.

Sentinel satellites CopernicusEarth observation satelliteAirbus Defence and Space