Sentinel-2C ready for transatlantic voyage in farewell to Vega launch

TAMPA, Fla. — Sentinel-2C is ready to ship from Germany for a two-week journey across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, where Europe’s newest Earth science satellite will be launched on the final flight of the original version of the Vega rocket.

Manufacturer Airbus said on July 3 that it had loaded the satellite aboard the Canopée, a cargo ship with sails specially designed to transport components for Europe’s Ariane 6 rocket.

Like its Airbus-built predecessors Sentinel-2A and -2B, launched in 2015 and 2017 respectively, Sentinel-2C’s payload is designed to generate optical images from the visible to the short-wave infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Each Sentinel-2 satellite collects 1.5 terabytes of data per day after on-board compression. This data is used for applications ranging from land use tracking to environmental monitoring.

Airbus said the 1,100-kilogram Sentinel-2C spacecraft would provide continuous imaging in 13 spectral bands from an altitude of 786 kilometers (480 miles) above Earth. At a width of 290 kilometers (180 miles), the company said the payload would deliver images at resolutions of 10, 20 or 60 meters (33,64 or 200 feet).

Sentinel-2C would eventually replace Sentinel-2A, which is identical to Sentinel-2B. Airbus also has a contract to supply the Sentinel-2D satellite to replace Sentinel-2B and ensure data continuity beyond 2035.

The satellites are part of Copernicus, the Earth observation component of the European Union’s space programme that uses various space technologies.

Earth observation missions developed by the European Space Agency as part of Copernicus. Credit: ESA

“About half of the data used to assess and monitor the impact of climate change on Earth is actually provided by satellites,” said Marc Steckling, head of Earth observation, science and exploration at Airbus, in a statement.

“The Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellites have been providing valuable climate information to scientists since 2015 and Sentinel-2C will ensure continuity. They have also made monitoring marine litter from space a reality, a significant achievement given how critical this problem has become.”

Arianespace’s new-generation medium-lift Vega C rocket successfully launched a handful of satellites during its maiden flight in July 2022.

However, five months later, the rocket failed to reach orbit during its second mission, destroying two Airbus Pléiades Neo imaging satellites. The rocket has been grounded ever since.

The European Space Agency ESA announced in May that it is preparing to return Vega C to service before the end of 2024.

The final flight of the original version of the Vega rocket was also scheduled to take place earlier this year, but a problem arose with the upper stage.

After a series of setbacks, the maiden flight of Arianespace’s Ariane 6 rocket, the successor to Ariane 5, is expected to take place on July 9 from French Guiana.

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