The fifth Sentinel Earth observation satellite, Sentinel 2B, has been successfully launched and placed in a stable orbit, ready to capture images of the Earth as part of the multi-billion-euro Copernicus program.
The program is being hailed as one of the most ambitious Earth observation programs in the world and Sentinel 2B will have a major role to play in the operation. The satellite successfully launched from the European Space Agency base at Kourou, French Guiana at 8:49 p.m. EST.
The Sentinel 2B cost over 100 million dollars to develop and will join its twin, Sentinel 2A, which has been in orbit since 2015. The satellite will be tasked with taking color images and infrared shots to assist with environmental projects across the globe. One of the major tasks includes the forecasting of crops and weather monitoring in the case of natural disasters. They also want to study the global greening phenomenon and look at the health of forests and vegetation.
The satellites, Sentinel 2A and Sentinel 2B, will orbit at an altitude of just under 500 miles and will always be on opposite sides of the planet. The Copernicus program will cost the ESA an estimated £3.7 billion after all the Sentinel missions are completed.
Some were concerned that the expenditure would outweigh the positive effects of the satellites, but the ESA say that the program will return at least 10 times this figure in terms of data and investment opportunities. All data gathered by the Sentinel’s will be free for the public; afterall, European tax payers have already paid for it.
“For the first time we (Europe) are leading the global monitoring aspect of space. There’s nothing comparable in America, in Japan, in Russia, in India. Between them the satellites will generate 1.6 terabytes of compressed raw image data daily. This is a high number, maybe difficult to imagine.” – Josef Aschbacher, director of Earth observation programmes at Esa.