Newly launched Sentinel-5P satellite to monitor the atmosphere

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13 October 2017

Artist’s impression of Sentinel-5P in orbit. The satellite is the first Copernicus mission dedicated to monitoring the composition of the atmosphere. (Image: ESA/ATG medialab)

The Sentinel-5P satellite launched on 13 October 2017 will make a vital contribution to the ECMWF-run Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) by measuring the composition of the atmosphere.

The polar-orbiting satellite was launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. It is part of a fleet of Sentinels supporting the European Union’s Copernicus Earth observation programme.

Sentinel-5P carries the state-of-the-art Tropomi instrument to map trace gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and aerosols.

“The satellite will in particular provide daily coverage of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a key pollutant, with a much finer spatial resolution than was previously available,” says Head of CAMS Vincent-Henri Peuch.

“It will be able to see urban sources much more precisely. This is essential. Sentinel-5P will detect sources that are not accounted for in air quality forecast models or that are not well quantified.”

The satellite was developed by ESA while the Tropomi advanced spectrometer was provided by the Netherlands.

Sentinel-5P satellite

The Sentinel-5P satellite was encapsulated within the launcher fairing 10 days ahead of its launch from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. (Photo: ESA–Stephane Corvaja, 2017)

Reducing data gaps

Sentinel-5P will reduce data gaps between ESA’s Envisat satellite mission, which ended in 2012, and the Sentinel-5 mission from around 2021. It will complement the GOME-2 spectrometer on EUMETSAT’s MetOp satellites.

With a swath width of 2600 km, the satellite will map the entire planet every day. In addition to supporting air quality forecasts and decision-making, the mission will contribute to services such as volcanic ash monitoring and UV radiation warnings.

Scientists will also use the data to study processes in the atmosphere related to climate and the formation of holes in the ozone layer.

In the future, both the geostationary Sentinel-4 and polar-orbiting Sentinel-5 missions will monitor the composition of the atmosphere for CAMS. Both missions will be carried on meteorological satellites operated by EUMETSAT.

“Since 1979, the ozone layer has been continually monitored from space. Today Sentinel-5P is taking over this essential function until Sentinel-4 and Sentinel-5 are put into orbit 5 or 6 years from now,” says Richard Engelen, Deputy Head of CAMS.

“This is vital information for forecasting UV radiation and for continuing to monitor the progressive recovery of the ozone layer.”

Sentinel-5P launch

The satellite was taken into orbit on a Rockot launcher from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. (Screenshot from ESA livestream)