The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a launch contract on behalf of the European Union with French satellite launch provider Arianespace for the launch of the third Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite. The Sentinel-1C radar satellite, which weighs in at around 2.3 metric tons, will be placed in a Sun-synchronous low Earth orbit at an altitude of around 690 km by a Vega-C rocket to be launched from French Guiana in the first half of 2023.
The previous two Sentinel-1 series satellites have used Soyuz rockets, albeit flown under Arianespace colours, from Kourou in French Guiana. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the unwillingness to use/unavailability of Russian built launch vehicles may have been a factor in the choice of Vega-C.
Copernicus, the Earth observation component of the European Union’s space programme has, in recent years, been the largest provider of Earth observation data in the world. The programme had a setback in December last year when Sentinel IB suffered a serious power fault which meant that the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) could not be used. ESA has indicated that this satellite will be replaced.
David Todd contributed to this story.