Continuing their track record for delivering both commercial and civial missions to orbit, Arianespace successfully launched the Sentinel-1A Earth observation satellite for Europe today. Carried onboard a Soyuz rocket from the spaceport in French Guiana, Sentinel-1A blasted off on time at 5:02:26 p.m. EDT to begin a 23-minute ascent into a Sun-synchronous orbit.
Sentinel-1A is the milestone first spacecraft to be orbited for Copernicus, a program of the European Commission in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) that will create a sustainable European satellite network to collect and evaluate environmental data for civil safety and humanitarian purposes.
Copernicus is one of two flagship space programs managed by the European Commission, along with the Galileo global navigation satellite system. Galileo was developed to provide Europe with a high-precision and independent positioning system – with the first four spacecraft deployed on two separate Arianespace Soyuz missions in 2011 and 2012.
Total payload lift performance for today’s Sentinal-1A mission – designated VS07 in Arianespace’s family numbering system – was more than 2,270 kg.
Sentinel-1A was developed in an industrial consortium led by Thales Alenia Space as prime contractor, with Airbus Defence and Space responsible for the C-SAR synthetic aperture radar payload. Its environmental tasks will include maritime surveillance and monitoring of sea ice, oil spills, landslides and floods, with data collected to assist in reconnaissance and operational support activities in response to natural disasters.
In comments from the mission control center after today’s Soyuz success, Chairman & CEO Stéphane Israël said Arianespace has always been committed to the endeavor of “bringing space down to Earth,” and reiterated the company’s readiness to support further missions for the benefit of all European citizens with its full launch vehicle family – composed of the medium-lift Soyuz, heavyweight Ariane 5, and light-lift Vega.
He added that Arianespace’s successes with the initial Galileo and Copernicus spacecraft have paved the way for many more in the two-to-three years to come, as the company’s order book includes 14 Galileo satellites still to be launched on Ariane 5 or Soyuz missions, along with two additional Sentinel satellites that will be orbited by Vega.
“Let me thank Arianespace – the most reliable operator worldwide – which showed today that it could continue its series of successes with Soyuz, Ariane 5 and Vega,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of the European Space Agency.
Sentinel-1A is the 41st payload lofted by Arianespace for ESA, and its launch today foreshadows additional European institutional missions in 2014 that will utilize the company’s full launch vehicle family – including an Ariane 5 flight with the fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle for servicing of the International Space Station; launch of the first Galileo FOC (full operational capability) satellites by Soyuz; and a Vega flight with the IXV experimental re-entry vehicle.
“Tonight was the seventh success of Soyuz from the Guiana Space Centre,” said Israël. “As its heavy-lift Ariane 5 and lightweight Vega siblings in the Arianespace family, Soyuz provides unrivalled quality, reliability and schedule assurance to our customers.”
As a further endorsement of this growing track record, Israël announced a new agreement with Russian space agency Roscosmos for the supply of seven more Soyuz launchers and associated services – which, when added to the nine vehicles from the previous batch, will cover Arianespace’s medium-lift needs until 2019.
Flight VS07 was Arianespace’s third mission conducted from French Guiana so far this year – following an Ariane 5 launch on March 22 and another on February 6, which orbited a combined total of four telecommunications satellites.
Up next in Arianespace’s busy 2014 schedule is Vega Flight VV03 with the DZZ-HR payload. This Earth observation satellite was built by Airbus Defence and Space for the Republic of Kazakhstan, and is scheduled for liftoff on April 28.
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