In the early hours of 7 March 2017, Central European Time, the next Earth observation satellite in the European Copernicus programme is scheduled to lift off aboard a Vega rocket from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. RUAG Space played a major role in the development and construction of the satellite and its launch vehicle
Watchers from above
The Sentinels are the centrepiece of Europe’s Copernicus Earth observation programme, with which the European Union wants to create a powerful modern infrastructure for Earth observation and geo-information. Copernicus is to supply image data for a range of purposes, including environmental protection, agriculture, forestry, land-use planning, and crisis management. In all, five different Sentinel missions are scheduled to launch by the year 2021.
For the development and construction of the two Sentinel-2 satellites, Airbus Defence & Space in Friedrichshafen, Germany is the prime contractor in an industrial consortium comprising the largest European aerospace companies. In its capacity as a member of this consortium, RUAG Space plays a key role in the Sentinel-2B.
GPS navigation thanks to RUAG
The RUAG Space subsidiary in Austria supplied the GPS navigation receivers that allow the satellites to orient themselves in space. They were specially developed for the requirements of precise orbit determination. To this end, the received signals are processed simultaneously at two different frequencies – unlike the GPS receivers commonly used in terrestrial applications, which process only one frequency. In addition to the GPS receivers, RUAG Space Austria supplied the thermal insulation for the laser communication terminal.
RUAG Space in Sweden and Finland supplied the data management equipment for the satellite. The onboard computer controls the satellite and collects the data from the sensors and actuators in order to downlink it back to earth. RUAG Space also provided the antennas for this data transmission and for the abovementioned GPS receivers.
The Solar Array Drive Mechanism, which ensures that the solar panels are turned accurately towards the sun, was supplied by RUAG Space’s Swiss facilities. On top of that, the payload fairing for the Vega rocket housing the satellite was manufactured by RUAG Space in Switzerland.