Sentinel-3A, observation satellite devoted to ocean and weather monitoring program was launched successfuly on yesterday evening.
Launch was performed from Plesetsk cosmodrome in Russia, from launch site 133/3 exactly forty seconds later then it was planned. At 17:57:40 GMT on 16 February 2016 Rokot rocket took off from Plesetsk. Targeted orbit for Sentinel-3A is characterized with apogee at 817 km and perigee at 801 km and inclination at 96.8°. Liftoff and flight were proceeding according to plan. After one hour and twenty minutes of flight (T+1h 20') separation of Sentinel-3A with Briz-KM was performed. At 19:37 GMT ESA officially could confirm that ground control center received first signals from satellite. After ten minutes ESA coinfirmed that Sentinel-3A deployed solar arrays. Longer contact with Sentinel-3A was performed at 19:29 GMT by the Kiruna ground station in Sweden. First telemetry and attitude control data were received and operators in ESOC operations centre, located in Darmstadt, could confirm that satellite is operating according to the plan. Next step of the mission is orbit testing, monitoring condition of the satellite and calibrating onboard devices to prepare Sentinel-3A for comissioning. Satellite will become fully operational in five months time.
Sentinel-3A is important part of Copernicus program with objective of creating first independent European Earth monitoring system. Designed and built by Thales Alenia Space will remain operational for at least seven years and in the next year it will be supported with additional Sentinel-3B. Next two Sentinel-3 series satellites will be launched in 2020's. All further three Sentinel spacecrafts will be lifted with European Vega rocket from French Guiana Space Center. It is worth to mention that just like during many ESA projects, data gathered during lasting of Copernicus program will be avalaible without any charge.
On picture above: main control room in ESA's ECOS, Darmstadt.