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Air quality-monitoring satellite in orbit
by Staff Writers
Plesetsk, Russia (ESA) Oct 16, 2017

"Launching the sixth Sentinel satellite for the Copernicus programme is testament to the extensive competence we have here at ESA, from its moment of conception to well into operations," said ESA Director General Jan Woerner.

The first Copernicus mission dedicated to monitoring our atmosphere, Sentinel-5P, has been launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. The 820 kg satellite was carried into orbit on a Rockot launcher at 09:27 GMT (11:27 CEST) today.

The first stage separated 2 min 16 sec after liftoff, followed by the fairing and second stage at 3 min 3 sec and 5 min 19 sec, respectively. The upper stage then fired twice, delivering Sentinel-5P to its final orbit 79 min after liftoff.

After separating from the upper stage, Sentinel-5P deployed its three solar panels and began communications with Earth. The first signal was received 93 min after launch as the satellite passed over the Kiruna station in Sweden.

Telemetry links, command and control were then established by controllers at ESA's operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany, allowing them to monitor the health of the satellite.

The launch and the early orbit phase will last three days, during which controllers will check the satellite's key systems and configure it for flight in space.

Following this, a commissioning phase will check all elements of the satellite's systems and the main instrument will be decontaminated. Once completed after a few weeks, the cooler door will be opened and the calibration and validation of Sentinel-5P's main Tropomi instrument will be performed.

The mission is expected to begin full operations six months from now.

"Launching the sixth Sentinel satellite for the Copernicus programme is testament to the extensive competence we have here at ESA, from its moment of conception to well into operations," said ESA Director General Jan Woerner.

"The Sentinel-5P satellite is now safely in orbit so it is up to our mission control teams to steer this mission into its operational life and maintain it for the next seven years or more."

Sentinel-5P - the P standing for Precursor - is the first Copernicus mission dedicated to monitoring our atmosphere.

The mission is one of six families of dedicated missions that make up the core of Europe's Copernicus environmental monitoring network. Copernicus relies on the Sentinels and contributing missions to provide data for monitoring the environment and supporting civil security activities. Sentinel-5P carries the state-of-the-art Tropomi to do just that.

Developed jointly by ESA and the Netherlands Space Office, Tropomi will map a multitude of trace gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and aerosols - all of which affect the air we breathe and therefore our health, and our climate.

Sentinel-5P was developed to reduce data gaps between the Envisat satellite - in particular the Sciamachy instrument - and the launch of Sentinel-5, and to complement the GOME-2 sensor on the MetOp satellite.

"Having Sentinel-5P in orbit will give us daily and global views at our atmosphere with a precision we never had before," said Josef Aschbacher, ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programmes.

"Our historic data records, together with the long-term perspective of the Copernicus satellite programme, opens the doors for generating datasets spanning decades - a prerequisite to understanding our ever-changing Earth. "

In the future, both the geostationary Sentinel-4 and polar-orbiting Sentinel-5 missions will monitor the composition of the atmosphere for Copernicus Atmosphere Services. Both missions will be carried on meteorological satellites operated by Eumetsat.

Until then, the Sentinel-5P mission will play a key role in monitoring and tracking air pollution.

Ready to assume control of Sentinel-5P
Paris (ESA) Oct 13, 2017 - Mission controllers completed a critical final rehearsal today, confirming that everything and everyone on ground are ready to take over control of Sentinel-5P in the harsh environment of space.

A 'team of teams' working at ESA's control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, today conducted a final rehearsal for this week's launch of Sentinel-5P.

They were joined by engineers working at ground stations on three continents and by teams responsible for the launcher and its payload in Plesetsk, Russia.

Sentinel-5P will be the first satellite dedicated to monitoring our atmosphere for Europe's ambitious Copernicus programme. It carries the Dutch-built, state-of-the-art Tropomi instrument to map a multitude of trace gases affecting the air we breathe, our health and our climate.

Expansion of the Sentinel fleet in orbit highlights the expertise of teams at ESA and their capability to fly 'constellation' missions, as Sentinel-5P will fly in tight coordination with the US Suomi-NPP mission.

Today's rehearsal capped off almost six months' intensive training for the 40 engineers and scientists working who will assume control of the satellite following lift off, set for 09:27 GMT (11:27 CEST) on Friday on a Rockot from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

All nominal

Following tradition, today's rehearsal simulated a normal launch, providing all teams with a final opportunity to repeat the actions they must perform for real on Friday, assuming all goes according to plan.

"This will be our sixth Sentinel satellite launch, but we can never take for granted that everything will function correctly," says Paolo Ferri, head of mission operations.

"Any satellite's hardware, software and systems are severely stressed during launch and the first hours in space, and there are always surprises - going to space is never routine.

"But our teams are the most experienced in Europe, very competent and well trained and I am confident they are ready to handle any contingency."

Practising for any event In today's rehearsal, the mission team worked 'on console' in the main control room, and were led through the countdown, the liftoff and the initial hours of flight, including receipt of the satellite's first signals from space.

The team included operations engineers, specialists working on tracking stations and the sophisticated 'ground segment' - the hardware and software used to control the satellite and distribute its data - and experts working in flight dynamics, software and networks, as well as simulation and training teams.

"We've practised every phase of the mission through 23 day-long simulation sessions, some in which everything went according to plan, and some in which unexpected anomalies or system failures occurred," says spacecraft operations manager Daniel Mesples.

For today's rehearsal, the real Sentinel-5P sitting on top of its rocket was connected to the mission control systems in Darmstadt via an umbilical data link, which will be dropped just minutes before liftoff.

In parallel, teams at the launch site went through all the operations they will have to perform on the day itself.

"This provided all teams involved with the maximum level of realism in this final rehearsal," says flight director Pier Paolo Emanuelli.

"We will now certify that mission control is ready to support the launch of Sentinel-5P on Friday." Critical moments

For the team at mission control, the most critical moment on Friday will occur some 14.5 minutes after Sentinel-5P separates from the rocket, starting its own free flight.

That's when the satellite will make its first call home, signalling via a ground station in Sweden that all is well and reporting its health and status.

Acquiring that signal is perhaps the most important moment in the intensive Launch and Early Orbit Phase, which will last three days and see the control team working in shifts around the clock.

These days will include a series of activities to verify the satellite's health, ensure it has solar power and full communications, activate systems like the startracker cameras and the GPS receiver for navigation, and ensure it is fully functional after its raucous ride into space.

If all goes well, the team will switch to normal daytime staffing, and move on to the next phase of the mission: commissioning Tropomi.

"I am very proud of everyone who has worked so hard to ensure that our teams, our systems and our centre are ready for Sentinel-5P launch," says Paolo.

"Next spring, we expect to launch the seventh satellite, Sentinel-3B, completing the first part of the Copernicus fleet in just 30 months, an impressive achievement in support of Europe."

Russia launches European satellite to monitor Earth's atmosphere
Moscow (AFP) Oct 13, 2017
Russia on Friday launched a European satellite dedicated to monitoring the Earth's atmosphere, the protective layer that shields the planet from the sun's radiation, live footage from the cosmodrome showed. The Sentinel-5P orbiter took off on schedule at 0927 GMT from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. The launch went according to plan and the 820-kilogramme (1,800-pound) satell ... read more

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