Airbus Defence and Space recently signed a contract worth €143 million with Thales Alenia Space to build two further space radar instruments for the Copernicus programme. Sentinel-1C and Sentinel-1D will carry the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Antenna Subsystem (SAS) which will be almost identical to those on the current Sentinel-1-satellites. The bolstered constellation will permit cover of the entirety of the world’s land masses on a weekly basis, sea-ice zones and shipping routes on a daily basis and the continuous cover of open oceans by wave imagettes.
The Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission is the European “Radar Vision” for the Copernicus joint initiative of the European Commission (EC) and the European Space Agency (ESA). Copernicus, previously known as GMES, is a European initiative for the implementation of information services dealing with environment and security. It is based on observation data received from Earth Observation satellites and ground-based information.
At present, the Copernicus Sentinel-1 SAR instrument provides valuable data available to various users internationally. Data is routinely and systematically provided for maritime and land monitoring, emergency response, climate change and security purposes. The Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission includes C-band imaging capability, operating in four exclusive imaging modes with different resolution (down to 5m) and coverage (up to 400km).
Sentinel-1A, launched on 3 April 2014, will be joined by its twin (Sentinel-1B) in April next year to form the European Radar Observatory. Since 30 November 2015, nearly 15,000 users have registered on the “Sentinel Scientific Hub” and completed more than 2.6 million downloads of data. Approximately 333,000 Sentinel-1A data products are available online.
The new spacecraft with their instruments will ensure continuity of radar data for Copernicus for the next 15 years.
The news comes soon after the recent World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC 2015) in Geneva, Switzerland, were a new radar frequencies were allocated for Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), greatly enhancing Earth Observation image quality. By doubling the actual 600 Megahertz to now reach 1,200 Megahert, the decision opens the door to an unprecedented image resolution quality in colour of future SAR satellites.
“This is an important breakthrough for the development of the next generation of SAR systems, which will lead to new applications for a wide range of needs in all the domains where data accuracy is really key,” said Evert Dudok, Executive Vice President of Communications, Intelligence and Security at Airbus Defence and Space.
Airbus estimate that the next generation of SAR satellites will be able to offer high-quality 25cm resolution imagery.