Yesterday, on 26 January 2016 Airbus Defence and Space signed contract with European Space Agency for designing and manufacturing two additional satellites under Copernicus program.
Copernicus is European Earth observation program which is under constant development since 1998. At the beginning known as Global Monitoring for Environmental Security (GMES) became Copernicus in 2012. Program is ESA response for similar various programs developed independently by space agencies around the world. Copernicus is still developing to provide European Union necessary informations from remote sensing satellites. They will be used to prevent natural diseases, monitore of agriculture, support rescue services during emergency situations and support every part of European economy which need accurate data gathered by satellites. Copernicus is based on different satellites; they are divided in six groups (You can read more here) and every group consists satellites designed for different objectives. Sentinel-2 series is planned constellation of four spacecrafts with precision optical instruments for high resolution land imaging. Until now, ESA launched one satellite from Sentinel-2 constellation, Sentinel-2A (on 23 June 2015 on atop of Vega rocket) which was built by Airbus Defense and Space. Third and fourth satellites from Sentinel-2 series, are now contracted for Airbus, which again confirmed strong position on European market and significant role in Copernicus program. It is worth to mention that Sentinel-5A and Sentinel-5B satellites were also contracted for Airbus along with Sentinel-6 (with Thales Alenia Space as subcontractor). Latest contract for Sentinel-2C and Sentinel-2D is worth 285 million Euros.
Sentinel-2 satellites will operate on altitude of 786 km and provide images with resolution of 10, 20 or 60 m with image width of 290 km. Onboard instruments are working in 13 bands: in visible, near infrared and short wave infrared spectrum and providing open data also for organizations and research institutions outside of EU for seven years of its operational life. Satellite is powered by deployable solar arrays (they are providing up to 1700 w of power) and weighs 1140 kg. Dimensions of spacecraft are 3.4 m x 1.8 m x 2.35 m. In spite of standard objective, Sentinel will become part of new communication system developed by ESA - European Data Relay System (EDRS). It is data relay system based on utilizing laser emitters and receivers for providing high capacity data transfer between satellites around the globe and ground receive stations (more about EDRS You can read here). EDRS is also part of cooperation between ESA and Airbus Defence and Space and will become eventually private communication system managed by Airbus.