A new view of our planet: Satellite Sentinel-3A provides its first batch of data

The sensors on Sentinel-3 enable us to take a new look at our lands and oceans. It supplies detailed information on the color, surface temperature and wave heights of the oceans. As a result, climate and environmental researchers are provided with a broad range of data, which will help them to improve their long-term models. Continuous measurement from space creates a source of information which enables researchers to understand and evaluate developments over a longer period of time.

The Thuringian space company, Jena-Optronik, under commission by Finmeccanica (Florence, Italy), is significantly involved with the SLSTR instrument (short for: Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer). Thales Alenia Space is the prime contractor, responsible for constructing the spacecraft, the OLCI and the SRAL instrument, as well as contributing to the supply of the SLSTR instrument. The “Copernicus” program is financed by the European Commission and realized by the European Space Agency ESA.

The Jena-based company was responsible for the thermal and mechanical design of the SLSTR as well as the development, construction and testing of the opto-mechanical structure, including various sub-systems such as the telescope, scanner, calibrating units for the optical and infrared channels, thermal stabilization and the insulation of the thermal management system of the whole instrument.

“The many years of experience in the construction of multispectral earth observation cameras have been augmented the involvement of Sentinel-3 in the field of infrared thermal radiation. The mission has been one of the principle driving forces behind the growth of Jena-Optronik in the last few years and the expected follow-up orders for the satellite ensure that high-tech employment will be preserved in Jena”, states Dr. Reinhard Berger, Vice President Products & Programs of Jena-Optronik GmbH, highlighting the significance of the mission for the Thuringian space company.

The technical heart of the mission

The SLSTR, one of four instruments on board Sentinel-3, measures both land and ocean surface temperatures, with an exceedingly high precision of 0.2 K in a belt over 1600 km wide (known as the swathe). This wide swathe provides environmental data for monitoring the climate and how it changes over time to a greater extent than was ever previously possible. The satellite data enables us to measure the earth’s surface in its entirety in high resolution - with a precision value of just 500m for the VIS/SWIR (short for: Visible and ShortWave Infra-Red) and 1 km for the TIR (short for: Thermal InfraRed) - every 48 hours.

The SLSTR is a combination of several outstanding achievements of engineering, the technical basis of which is represented by the extremely stable carbon fibre structure, the high-precision optical processing and adjustments using a number of synchronized scan mirrors with a positioning accuracy of only a few arc seconds.

The opto-mechanical structure of these instruments is the largest and most complex instrument structure that has ever been developed by Jena-Optronik and built according to their specifications. The Jena team can be especially proud of having once again proven their expertise in the form of the highly complex scanning mechanisms for use in space that they developed themselves, as well as their tried and tested precision in the development of reflecting telescopes.

Wolfgang Engel, Sentinel-3 Project Leader at Jena-Optronik: “The high standards demanded by Finmeccanica and the European Space Agency ESA to achieve the operational and performance capability and quality were at the same time the main task and the incentive of the project. Many colleagues at Jena-Optronik have worked together in contributing to this achievement. I would like to express my appreciation to the project team! Some of you are no longer in the company, many others are working on other projects in the meantime and are able to make further use of the experience you have gained. The core group is already working on a new project to produce the follow-up orders for instruments to be used in two further missions. We look forward to working together on the next projects!”

Please find the first pictures of SLSTR here (Link to ESA, please consider the therin stated copyright remarks):

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