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by Staff Writers
Paris (ESA) May 12, 2014
From climate change monitoring to supporting humanitarian aid and crisis situations, early data applications from the month-old Sentinel-1A satellite show how the radar mission's critical observations can be used to keep us and our planet safe.
Launched from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana on 3 April, Sentinel-1A is the first satellite in Europe's Copernicus environmental monitoring network. The mission uses radar to provide an all-weather, day-and-night supply of imagery of Earth's surface.
At an event in Brussels, experts who had been given access to early Sentinel-1A radar data presented how a variety of operational and scientific applications will benefit.
"These [radar] images and their analyses will benefit European citizens, enterprises and decision makers, as well as the international scientific community. They will allow us to better protect our planet and improve the quality of life of our citizens," said Philippe Brunet, Director of Aerospace, Maritime, Security and Defence Industries at the European Commission.
Leif Toudal Pedersen from the Danish Meteorological Institute and involved in the Copernicus marine core service MyOcean presented the first 'ice chart' from Sentinel-1A, showing how the radar will be used to map sea-ice conditions for the safe passage of vessels.
Another marine application is detecting oil spills, as outlined by Machteld Price from the European Maritime Safety Agency. Imagery from Sentinel-1 will be essential tools for supporting EU policies in maritime safety.
The spread of an oil spill can be forecast using information on waves, currents and winds - and such information can also be derived from the data. Bertrand Chapron from Ifremer in France can already see the benefits of the radar's high performance even before the satellite is fully calibrated.
The mission also has many applications over land. Christiane Schmullius from the University of Jena used early images to demonstrate the mission's potential to map land cover over parts of Germany, differentiating between forests, agricultural areas and urban areas.
The 'radar interferometry' remote sensing technique was outlined by Alessandro Ferretti from the Tele-Rilevamento Europa in Italy. It combines two or more radar scans over the same area to detect ground movement down to a few millimetres between them.
As well as being a valuable resource for urban planners, this kind of information is essential for monitoring shifts from earthquakes, landslides and volcanic uplift.
Dr Ferretti also discussed how Sentinel-1 will foster development in European space and service industries, maximising opportunities for small and medium enterprises to grow.
Sentinel-1 at ESA
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