Slated for launch at the start of 2024, Sentinel-2C has just started a five-month testing program to ensure that it is fit for its life in space.
The Sentinel-2 satellites each carry an innovative, high-resolution, multi-spectral imager, which combined with the satellites’ 290 km-wide swath and frequent revisit times, offer unprecedented views of Earth.
However, over the last six years, the mission’s data have also been used to monitor changes in ice sheets and glaciers, coastal erosion, deforestation, burnt land resulting from wildfires, pollution in lakes and coastal waters, and more.
The mission is based on a constellation of two identical satellites in the same orbit, 180° apart for optimal coverage and data delivery. When Sentinel-2A retires, Sentinel-2C will be there to take its place, and eventually Sentinel-2D will replace Sentinel-2B. This pairing guarantees the continuation of data delivery that many Copernicus Services users now rely.
Engineers at Airbus Defence and Space have spent the last four months completing the build-up of the satellite by integrating its all-important multi-spectral imager instrument and have now transported it to IABG’s facilities.
The program includes a range of mechanical tests that simulate the noise and vibrations of liftoff, tests that check that the satellite deploys its solar wing correctly, other tests that place the satellite under the extreme temperature swings it will experience in space, and electromagnetic compatibility tests to measure radio frequency radiation levels generated by the satellite and to verify the correct operation of the satellite equipment under this environment.
Once all this has been completed, Sentinel-2C will be transported back to Friedrichshafen, Germany, for some final checks before being placed in storage to wait until it is time to ship it to the launch site in French Guiana. Liftoff is envisaged to occur in early 2024.
Constantin Mavrocordatos, ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 project manager, said, “We are thrilled that Sentinel-2C is now ready to be fully tested. Airbus has done a spectacular job fitting the whole satellite out, especially during these difficult Covid times, which has led to some different ways of working to ensure all the restrictions are respected. The satellite arrived safely in IABG where it was unpacked, checked that all is well after its short road trip from Friedrichshafen and was installed in the cleanroom for series of exhaustive tests that will run until Christmas.”