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Europe Preps for Launch of Environmental ‘Color Vision’ Satellite

Nov 11, 2016 04:10 AM EST

The European Space Agency (ESA) is gearing up for the launch of its "color vision" satellite.

The Sentinel-2B is part of a two-satellite constellation program called Sentinel-2, which offers "color vision" for Europe's environmental monitoring program Copernicus, combining high-resolution and novel multispectral capabilities to monitor Earth's changing lands in unprecedented detail and accuracy.

The Sentinel-2 mission was designed and built by a consortium of about 60 companies led by Airbus Defense and Space. The two identical satellites are equipped with state-of-the-art Multispectral Imager (MSI) instrument that offers high-resolution optical imagery. Together, they will provide a global coverage of the Earth's land surfaces, large islands, inland and coastal waters every 10 days with one satellite and five days with two satellites, making the data of great use in ongoing studies.

The twin satellites could also be used in monitoring land use and management soil sealing, forest and crops, as well as in observing natural disasters like floods, forest fires, landslides and coastal erosion to support ground humanitarian aid, ESA said.

Sentinel-2A was launched in June 2015 and has been providing routine imagery for the Copernicus Land Monitoring Service, among others. Sentinel-2B is scheduled to fly in spring of 2017 from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on top of a Vega rocket.

Sentinel-2B is undergoing a series of environmental tests at ESA's research and technology center ESTEC in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. A final viewing of the Sentinel-2B will be organized by ESA and the European Commission, together with Airbus Defense and Space, on Nov. 15 before the satellite will be packed and shipped to French Guiana for its spring launch.

ESA is developing the Sentinel family of satellites specifically for the operational needs of the Copernicus program. Formerly known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), Copernicus is Europe's Earth observation program that aims to understand the changes on Earth and its climate.

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