Minimize Copernicus: Sentinel-5P

Copernicus: Sentinel-5P (Precursor - Atmospheric Monitoring Mission)

Spacecraft     Launch    Mission Status     Sensor Complement    Ground Segment    References

Sentinel-5P (or S-5P, or S5P) is an approved LEO pre-operational mission within the European GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) program — a collaborative effort of ESA and NSO (Netherlands Space Office). The goal is to fill the gap between the current atmospheric monitoring instruments SCIAMACHY on ESA's Envisat satellite and OMI (Ozone Monitoring Instrument) carried on NASA's Aura mission, as these instruments come to the end of their lifetimes, and the launch of the Sentinel-5 mission is planned for the timeframe 2020. Note: The Envisat mission operations ended on May 9, 2012. 1) 2) 3) 4)

Copernicus is the new name of the European Commission's Earth Observation Programme, previously known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security). The new name was announced on December 11, 2012, by EC (European Commission) Vice-President Antonio Tajani during the Competitiveness Council.

In the words of Antonio Tajani: “By changing the name from GMES to Copernicus, we are paying homage to a great European scientist and observer: Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543). As he was the catalyst in the 16th century to better understand our world, so the European Earth Observation Programme gives us a thorough understanding of our changing planet, enabling concrete actions to improve the quality of life of the citizens. Copernicus has now reached maturity as a programme and all its services will enter soon into the operational phase. Thanks to greater data availability user take-up will increase, thus contributing to that growth that we so dearly need today.”

Table 1: Copernicus is the new name of the former GMES program 5)

The missions Sentinel-5P (LEO), Sentinel-4 (GEO) and Sentinel-5 (LEO) will be devoted to atmospheric composition monitoring for the GMES Atmosphere Service (GAS). The objective of the Sentinel-5P mission is to provide data delivery (maintain the continuity of science data) for atmospheric services between 2015-2020. The successor Sentinel-5 payload is planned to be flown on a MetOp-SG (Second Generation) mission with a launch in 2020.

At the ESA ministerial Conference in 2008 in The Hague, The Netherlands, the Sentinel-5P mission was defined in the frame of the ESA GMES Space Component Program. This program answers to a joint initiative of the EC (European Commission) and ESA on GMES.


Figure 1: Sentinel-5P (SP5) is a gap-filler mission (image credit: Astrium) 6)









Temporal sampling






UVNS (UV NIR SWIR) Spectrometer


UVN Spectrometer

IAS (IR Atmospheric Sounder)

IRS (IR Sounder)

(Host) Satellite


Free flyer





VII (EPS Second Generation VIS/IR imager),
3MI (EPS Second Generation Multi-Viewing Multi-Channel Multi-Polarisation Imager)


FCI/MTG-I (Flexible Combined Imager/Meteosat Third Generation-Imager)

VII (EPS Second Generation VIS/IR imager)

FCI /MTG-I (Flexible Combined Imager/Meteosat Third Generation-Imager)



















Table 2: Summary of the implementation scenarios of the Atmospheric Composition Sentinels 7)


Figure 2: Launch schedule of the Atmospheric Sentinels; the third Sentinel-5UVNS instrument is expected to be launched after 2030 (image credit: ESA)


Unlike the previous missions (Sentinel-1, Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3), the Sentinel-4 and -5 will be in the class of “hosted payload” missions embarked on meteorological satellites and will be dedicated to atmospheric composition monitoring for the Copernicus Atmospheric Service. The mission is a single payload satellite embarking TROPOMI (Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument), a pushbroom instrument with four hyperspectral channels covering the spectrum from UV to SWIR. - On Dec. 8, 2011, ESA awarded a contract to Astrium Ltd. (Stevenage, UK) to act as prime contractor for the Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite system. 8) 9)

The satellite uses the AstroBus-L 250 M platform of Astrium and thus draws on the heritage from the SEOSat/Ingenio program of Spain, developed under the control of ESA, and from SPOT-6 and -7, two commercial imaging missions currently under development with Astrium internal funding. Including an ongoing export contract with Kazakhstan using this platform, Sentinel-5p is the 5th mission in the series and can rely on a robust and proven platform design. 10) 11)


Figure 3: Artist's view of the Sentinel-5P spacecraft in orbit (image credit: ESA, Airbus DS) 12)

The mechanical platform consists of a hexagonal structure supporting the platform electrical units and the TROPOMI ICU (Instrument Control Unit), and interfacing to a standard launch vehicle interface ring.

In the baseline solution, the platform equipment is distributed over the opening side panels, thus allowing easy access during integration and in case of on-ground maintenance operations.

The platform electrical/functional allocation uses a well proven classical architecture which is currently implemented in several ESA missions as well as in national and export programs. This proven architecture allows re-use of electronic equipment from several suppliers.

The core of the platform electrical/functional architecture is the data handling housed in two physically separate units, the OBC (On-Board Computer) and the RIU (Remote Interface Unit). The OBC (LEON 3) provides the processing and housekeeping memory functions and is responsible for telemetry and telecommand (TM/TC) handling, on-board time management, system re-configuration and communication with “intelligent” platform and payload units – units which communicate via a data bus. The OBC also manages the interface with the S-band transponder, which provides the RF telemetry, telecommand and ranging link to and from the ground station.

The OBC communicates with other satellite units primarily via two independent, fully redundant MIL-STD-1553B buses. All input/output interfaces to “non-intelligent” units are managed by the RIU.

The spacecraft power conditioning functions are performed autonomously by the PCDU (Power Conditioning and Distribution Unit). For robustness, these functions are implemented without the use of software. A battery and solar array sized to satisfy the mission needs complete the power subsystem.

The thermal subsystem includes heaters that are needed to maintain the thermal environment of the platform. The thermal control loops are controlled by the CSW (Central Software) resident in the OBC.

A COTS (Commercial-off-the Shelf) monopropellant propulsion module is used for orbit maintenance, mounted in the center of the lower floor. The propulsion subsystem is a hydrazine design operating in blow-down mode with 4 x 1 N thrusters configured in two redundant pairs.

The top floor accommodates the instrument and its radiator, as well as the star trackers and the X-band and S-band communication antennas. The instrument is mounted in a canted position, such that its radiator has an unobstructed field of view.

The nominal operational scenario for the payload instrument will always be nadir-pointing in the instrument imaging mode. Measurement data is collected when the SZA (Sun-Zenith Angle) is < 92º. Sun calibration can be performed close to the northern polar region when the sun enters the FOV (Field-of-View) of the sun calibration ports. Further calibration can be performed throughout the remainder of the orbit.

The PDHT (Payload Data Handling and Transmission) subsystem consists of a PDHU (Payload Data Handling Unit) and a set of X-band transmission units. The PDHU stores and handles the data transmitted by high speed links from the instrument. PUS (Packet Utilization Standard) compliant data are sent to the transponders and transmitted to ground.

The spacecraft is 3-axis stabilized, the design provides an optional yaw steering.


Figure 4: Fold-out illustration of the AstroBus-L elements (image credit: ESA)

The main features of the FDIR (Failure Detection, Isolation and Recovery) concept are:

• A robust and qualified design coming from a high level of reuse of the standardized operations and FDIR concept already implemented in SEOSat/Ingenio

• A hierarchical architecture (from unit level to system level) where the goal is to try to recover the observed error on the lowest possible level to maximize the system availability for nominal operations.

This FDIR design guarantees:

• A high level of autonomy for the nominal mission with extended periods of time without ground intervention

• Satellite integrity in case of any failure leading to suspend the nominal mission

• Maximizes the satellite availability and autonomy while preserving a robust and failure tolerant system

• Safe operation of the satellite in case of any credible anomaly

• Geo-location performance within requirements even after a single failure: the 3 Star Tracker Optical Heads ensure that the geo-location requirements are still met with some margin after the loss of one optical head.


Figure 5: Illustration of the Sentinel-5P spacecraft (image credit: ESA, Airbus DS)

EPS (Electrical Power Subsystem): Three deployable solar arrays (5.4 m2) using GaAs triple-junction solar cells, supply 1500 W of average power. The two Li-ion batteries have a capacity of 156 Ah.

RF communications: The spacecraft will be equipped with S-band and X-band communication channels for uplink commanding and housekeeping telemetry downlink and for the downlink of instrument data, respectively. The X-band payload downlink rate is 310 Mbit/s. The onboard mass memory unit has a capacity of 430 Gbit using flash memory technology.

Project development status:

• On October 13, 2017, Europe’s Sentinel-5P Earth observation mission will be lofted into space on a Russian rocket from Plesetsk Cosmodrome. About 93 minutes later, the satellite – having separated from the rocket and opened its solar panels – will transmit its first signals. The transmission will indicate that all has gone well with the launch and that the satellite is ready to receive instructions. 13)

- On Earth, engineers at the ground station in Kiruna, Sweden will be watching intently, with their 15 m diameter antenna pointing at the horizon, ready to catch Sentinel-5P’s signal as it rises into the sky over the country. - The Kiruna station is part of ESA’s global network, and it routinely supports multiple missions such as CryoSat, Integral, the Swarm trio and Sentinel.


Figure 6: Photo of the Kiruna station, located at Salmijärvi, 38 km east of Kiruna, in northern Sweden (image credit: ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

- At the same time, 2100 km to the south, the team at ESA’s mission control center in Darmstadt, Germany, will also be watching closely, because ‘acquisition of signal’ will mark the moment they assume control, sending commands and downlinking data to check on the satellite’s health and status.

• October 11, 2017: ESA’s air-quality mission Sentinel-5P will sift through light from the atmosphere to accomplish its ambitious monitoring goals. The Agency’s optics specialists helped to verify its main TROPOMI instrument would operate as planned. 14)

- Sentinel-5P is the first in a series of atmospheric chemistry missions from the European Commission’s Copernicus program. It carries a single high-precision optical payload called the TROPOMI (Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument), developed jointly by the Netherlands and ESA. - Its aim is to track gradual changes in the makeup of the atmosphere, providing continuity between past missions such as ESA’s Envisat and NASA’s Aura and Europe’s future Sentinel-4 and -5.


Figure 7: Test grating: Straylight performance verification measurements of a test grating for Sentinel-5P’s TROPOMI instrument, carried out in the ESTEC Optics Lab to ensure the delivery of quality measurements of Earth's atmosphere. These gratings are used to split light reflected from the atmosphere so that the spectral fingerprints of trace gases can be pinpointed (image credit: ESTEC Optics Laboratory/ESA)

- Orbiting at 824 km above our heads, Sentinel-5P will map a multitude of trace gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and aerosols – all of which affect the air we breathe and therefore our health, and our climate.

- The optimal performance of an optical instrument in space always comes down to the combination of its individual components – coatings, filters, lenses and mirrors – in the optical chain. So back during TROPOMI’s development phase, ESA’s Optics Laboratory tested a number of key instrument elements.


Figure 8: ESTEC optics laboratory angular resolved straylight measurement facility (image credit: ESA, S. Muirhead)

- TROPOMI works by comparing reflected light from Earth’s atmosphere with direct sunlight at various wavelengths, from infrared to ultraviolet. It uses diffraction gratings to split this light, allowing it to sift out the spectral fingerprints of its target trace gases.

- The optimal performance of an optical instrument in space always comes down to the combination of its individual components – coatings, filters, lenses and mirrors – in the optical chain. So back during TROPOMI’s development phase, ESA’s Optics Laboratory tested a number of key instrument elements.

- One of a suite of technical labs at ESA’s technical heart in the Netherlands, the Optics Lab focused on verifying controlling unwanted ‘stray light’ that might leak from the diffraction gratings. Too much stray light might make trace gas detection impossible. They performed precision measurements of prototype TROPOMI gratings to ensure any stray light remained within permissible bounds.


Figure 9: Sentinel-5P infographic: Mapping the global atmosphere every day, the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite provides high-resolution data on a multitude of trace gases and information on aerosols that affect air quality and climate (image credit: ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

• October 4, 2017: As preparations for the launch of Sentinel-5P continue on track, the team at Russia’s Plesetsk site has bid farewell to the satellite as it was sealed from view in the Rockot fairing. 15)

• Sept. 25, 2017: Engineers have been at Russia’s Plesetsk launch site for a month now, ticking off the jobs on the ‘to do’ list so that the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite is fit and ready for liftoff on 13 October. With the satellite now fuelled, the team has passed another milestone. 16)

• Sept. 4, 2017: The Sentinel-5P satellite has arrived in Plesetsk in northern Russia to be prepared for liftoff on 13 October. Built to deliver global maps of air pollutants every day and in more detail than ever before, this latest Copernicus mission will set a new standard for monitoring air quality. 17)

- Sentinel-5P is the first Copernicus mission dedicated to monitoring our atmosphere. It follows five other Sentinel satellites already in orbit and delivering a wealth of information about our planet.


Figure 10: Photo of the Sentinel-5P spacecraft arrival in Plesetsk (image credit: ESA)

• August 30, 2017: Today, Sentinel-5P was loaded on the Antonov aircraft that will take this latest Copernicus satellite to Russia to be prepared for liftoff in October. 18)

- Sentinel-5P carries the state-of-the-art TROPOMI instrument to map a multitude of trace gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and aerosols – all of which affect the air we breathe, our health, and our climate. With a swath width of 2600 km, it will map the entire planet every day. Information from this new mission will be used through the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service for air-quality forecasts and for decision-making.


Figure 11: Inside the cavernous Antonov (image credit: ESA)

• June 22, 2017: The Copernicus Sentinel-5 Precursor (Sentinel-5P) mission is dedicated to monitoring the composition of the atmosphere. Its data will be used largely by the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service. The mission will deliver information to monitor air quality, stratospheric ozone and will also be used for climate variables monitoring, and support European policy-making. 19)

- The Sentinel-5P mission will be the first of a series of atmospheric chemistry missions to be launched within the European Commission's Copernicus program. With the current launch window of September 2017 and a nominal lifetime of seven years, Sentinel-5P is expected to provide continuity in the availability of global atmospheric data products between its predecessor missions, SCIAMACHY (Envisat) and OMI (Aura), and the future Sentinel-4 and -5 missions.


Figure 12: Sentinel-5P Astrobus Platform Elements: The various elements that comprise the Sentinel-5P satellite, including the single payload instrument TROPOMI (image credit: ESA)

- Sentinel-5P products will be used by Copernicus Services, namely the Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) or the Climate Change Service (C3S). These services will transform its data into high value information (for instance, forecasts of air pollution over Europe) that can be used by decision-makers to take appropriate actions on environmental policies, from which the well-being and security of EC citizens and future generations depend.


Figure 13: European-scale air quality forecast of ozone: The CAMS (Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service) provides European-scale air quality forecasts for every hour, up to 4 days in advance, supplied by the EURAD model. The maps provided are representative for large scale phenomena, and they cannot reproduce local aspects of air pollution (image credit: CAMS)

• Feb. 6, 2016: The launch service for ESA's Sentinel-5p satellite on the Rockot launch vehicle reached an important project milestone during this week. In the frame of the satellite’s test campaign at the facilities of Intespace, Toulouse, Sentinel-5P has been mated for the first time on its dedicated launch vehicle adapter. This adapter system will attach the spacecraft to the Rockot carrier during its travel into space and will eventually release the satellite into the target orbit. 20)

- The mating exercise, the so-called fit-check, aimed at verifying the mechanical and electrical interfaces between the Sentinel-5p satellite, built by Airbus DS in Stevenage, and the launcher hardware, manufactured by the rocketry company Khrunichev Research and Production Space Center. The purpose of a fit-check is ensuring a successful integration of the spacecraft onto Rockot at the launch complex and a check of the umbilical connections between the launcher and its payload. For the Sentinel-5P mission, the fit-check was further used to verify a customized purging system which was integrated into the adapter allowing the satellite customer to flush its contamination-sensitive instrument through the satellite-launcher interface during ground operations.


Figure 14: Sentinel-5P being lowered on the Rockot adapter ..... (image credit: Eurockot)

- The actual attachment of the Sentinel-5P satellite to its launch adapter is by means of a clamp band mechanism developed by Airbus Defence and Space in Madrid (formerly CASA Espacio). The clamp band is applied with high tension along the spacecraft-launch vehicle interface. The release of the satellite in space is achieved by firing pyro charges, which spontaneously open the clamp and hence allow separation. As the flawless functioning of the release is essential for a launch success, it was tested following the mating under recording the induced shock loads levels.

- Fit-check and release shock test have been conducted successfully on February 2nd and 3rd, respectively, in a remarkable team effort by Airbus Defence & Space, the Khrunichev Space Center, European Space Agency and Eurockot.


Figure 15: and mated with the Rockot launch vehicle adapter .... (image credit: Eurockot)


Figure 16: and separated again ..... (image credit: Eurockot)

• July 24, 2015: The Sentinel-5 Precursor platform and the TROPOMI instrument have been integrated together to form the satellite which will be leaving the UK for testing. Airbus DS will deliver the spacecraft to Intespace in Toulouse, France, for final system level testing. 21)

Launch: The Sentinel-5P spacecraft was launched on October 13, 2017 (09:27 GMT) on an Eurockot Rockot/Briz-KM vehicle from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. The Sentinel-5P spacecraft has a launch mass of ~ 820 kg. The first stage separated 2 min 16 sec after liftoff, followed by the fairing and second stage at 3 min 3 sec and 5 min 19 sec, respectively. The upper stage then fired twice, delivering Sentinel-5P to its final orbit 79 min after liftoff. 22) 23) 24) 25)

Orbit: Sun-synchronous orbit, altitude = 824 km, inclination = 98.74º, LTAN (Local Time on Ascending Node) = 13.35 hours, period = 101 minutes, the repeat cycle is 17 days (227 orbits).

A unique feature of the Sentinel-5P mission lies in the synergistic exploitation of simultaneous measurements of imager data from the VIIRS (Visible/Infrared Imager and Radiometer Suite), embarked on the Suomi NPP (NPOESS Preparatory Project) satellite of NASA/NOAA. NASA launched the NPP mission on October 28, 2011. The Sentinel-5P orbit is selected such that it trails behind Suomi NPP by 5 min in LTAN, allowing the Sentinel-5P observation swath to remain within the scene observed by Suomi NPP.

Operational system/service allocations:

• The Sentinel-5P satellite consists of the platform and the TROPOMI payload, the latter is supplied as CFI (Customer Furnished Item) to the spacecraft prime.

• The LEOP (Launch and Early Orbit Phase) ground station network will be used to control spacecraft after launch.

• Svalbard polar Earth station for spacecraft operations and data downlinking.

• The FOS (Flight Operations Segment) function will be performed by ESA/ESOC.

• The PDGS (Payload Data Ground Segment) function will be performed by DLR/EOC (Earth Observation Center), under contract to Astrium Ltd. This involves the development of PDGS to host the missions' ground processors and to distribute the resulting data to the user community.

Spacecraft launch mass

980 kg

Spacecraft power

1500 W (EOL), 430 W average power consumption, battery capacity = 156 Ah

Spacecraft platform

Astrobus L 250 M (Astrium UK)

Onboard storage capacity

480 Gbit (redundant) mass memory capacity)

Science data link

310 Mbit/s, modulation: OQPSK (Offset Quadrature Phase Shift Keying)

Mission lifetime

7 years with reliability of 0.75



TROPOMI instrument mass

206.6 kg, plus 17.4 kg for the instrument control unit
170 W (average)
1.4 m x 0.65 m x 0.75 m

TROPOMI swath width

2600 km (kept within the 3000 km VIIRS swath of Suomi NPP)

Observation pointing

Fixed nadir pointing – accuracy requirements are easily met by typical EO satellites

Observation periods

Observation + calibration typically 89% of orbit

Data collected / orbit

139 Gbit

Data downlink

Once per orbit. No data loss if the downlink is missed for one orbit
S-band TT&C with up to 64 kbit/s uplink and up to 571 kbit/s downlink with ranging and coherency
X-band science data downlink at 310 Mbit/s OQPSK.

Spacecraft autonomy

Command loading for 7 days

Payload thermal control

Passive, use of a 1.5 m2 radiator

Table 3: Overview of some mission parameters


Figure 17: Sentinel-5P team set-up (image credit: Astrium)

Note: As of June 2019, the previously large Sentinel5P file has been split into two files, to make the file handling manageable for all parties concerned, in particular for the user community.

This article covers the Sentinel-5P mission plus the mission status in the period 2020-2019

Sentinel-5P Mission Status for the period 2018-2017

Mission status for the period 2020-2019

• March 27, 2020: New data, based on observations from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, are showing strong reductions in nitrogen dioxide concentrations over several major cities across Europe – including Paris, Madrid and Rome. 26)

- The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been spreading rapidly across the world – affecting 170 countries with more than 530,000 confirmed cases worldwide. The coronavirus outbreak was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, and has since stated that the disease is ‘accelerating’.


Figure 18: Nitrogen dioxide concentrations over France. These images, using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, show the average nitrogen dioxide concentrations from 14 to 25 March 2020 (right), compared to the monthly average concentrations from 2019 (left), image credit: ESA, the images contain modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019-20), processed by KNMI/ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

- In order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, countries across the world are implementing strict measures – placing cities and even entire countries on lockdown.

- The Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite has recently mapped air pollution across Europe and China and has revealed a significant drop in nitrogen dioxide concentrations – coinciding with the strict quarantine measures.

- Scientists from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) have been using data from Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite to monitor both weather and pollution over Europe.

- The new images clearly illustrate a strong reduction of nitrogen dioxide concentrations over major cities across Europe – specifically Milan, Paris and Madrid.

Figure 19: Nitrogen dioxide concentrations over Spain. This image, using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, shows the average nitrogen dioxide concentrations from 14 to 25 March 2020, compared to the monthly average concentrations from 2019 (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019-20), processed by KNMI/ESA)

- Henk Eskes, from KNMI, explains why these dates were chosen, “The nitrogen dioxide concentrations vary from day to day due to changes in the weather. Conclusions cannot be drawn based on just one day of data alone.

- He continues, “By combining data for a specific period of time, 10 days in this case, the meteorological variability partly averages out and we begin to see the impact of changes due to human activity.”

- “The chemistry in our atmosphere is non-linear. Therefore, the percentage drop in concentrations may differ somewhat from the drop in emissions. Atmospheric chemistry models, which account for daily changes in weather, in combination with inverse modelling techniques are needed to quantify the emission based on the satellite observations.”

- The KNMI team, in collaboration with scientists worldwide, have started to work on a more detailed analysis using ground data, weather data and inverse modelling to interpret the concentrations observed, in order to estimate the influence of the shutdown measures.

- Henk comments, “For quantitative estimates of the changes in the emissions due to transportation and industry, we need to combine the TROPOMI data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite with models of atmospheric chemistry. These studies have started, but will take some time to complete.”

- Other countries in northern Europe are being closely monitored, including the Netherlands and the United Kingdom – but scientists have observed a larger variability owing to changing weather conditions. New measurements from this week will help to assess the changes in nitrogen dioxide over northwest Europe.

- Claus Zehner, ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager, says, “The special features of the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, with its high spatial resolution and accurate ability to observe trace gases compared to other atmospheric satellite missions, allows for the generation of these unique nitrogen dioxide concentration measurements from space.”

- ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programs, Josef Aschbacher, says, “The long-term cooperation between ESA and KNMI proves very valuable and shows the importance of complementary analyses by different partner organizations. As we can see, the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite is the best satellite equipped to monitor nitrogen dioxide concentrations on a global scale.”


Figure 20: Nitrogen dioxide concentrations over Italy. These images, using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, show the average nitrogen dioxide concentrations from 14 to 25 March 2020, compared to the monthly average concentrations from 2019 (image credit: ESA, the images contain modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019-20), processed by KNMI/ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

• March 19, 2020: Recent data have shown a decline of air pollution over northern Italy coinciding with its nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This new map shows the variation of nitrogen dioxide emissions over China from December to March – thanks to the TROPOMI instrument on board the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite. 27)

- As news of the coronavirus broke out in the Hubei province, China, in late December 2019, stricter measures were put in place. As a result, by late January, factories were closed and streets were cleared as Chinese authorities had ceased daily activities to stop the spread of the illness.

- This led to the dramatic reduction in nitrogen dioxide emissions – those released by power plants, industrial facilities and vehicles – in all major Chinese cities between late-January and February. The drop in emissions also coincided with Lunar New Year celebrations, which usually sees a similar drop in emissions each year.

- The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) observed a decrease of fine particulate matter – one of the most important air pollutants – in February 2020 compared to the previous three years. By combining satellite observations with detailed computer models of the atmosphere, their studies indicated a reduction of around 20-30% in surface particulate matter over large parts of China.

Figure 21: This animation, using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, shows the nitrogen dioxide emissions from 20 December 2019 until 16 March 2020 – using a 10-day moving average. The drop in emissions in late-January is visible, coinciding with the nationwide quarantine, and from the beginning of March, the nitrogen dioxide levels have begun to increase (video credit: ESA, the animation contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019-20), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

- As the coronavirus epidemic eases in China, many provinces have downgraded their emergency response levels. Schools, factories and other public spaces are starting to re-open and workers are gradually returning to their jobs.

- Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programs, says, “Satellites offer a unique vantage point to monitor the health of our planet. Sentinel-5P is one of seven Copernicus satellites in orbit today. It currently provides the most accurate measurements of nitrogen dioxide and other trace gases from space. “As nitrogen dioxide is primarily produced by traffic and factories, it is a first-level indicator of industrial activity worldwide. What is clearly visible is a significant reduction of nitrogen dioxide levels over China, caused by reduced activity due to COVID-19 restrictions, but also the Chinese New Year in January.”

- He continues, “The Copernicus program is a perfect example of how space serves all European citizens by combining the political strength of the EU with the technical excellence of ESA.”

Figure 22: This image, using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, shows the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions over China from 7 to 16 March 2020 (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2020), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

- Claus Zehner, ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager, comments, “We can certainly attribute a part of the nitrogen dioxide emission reduction to the impact of the coronavirus. We currently see around a 40% reduction over Chinese cities, however these are just rough estimates, as weather also has an impact on emissions.

- “We are conducting a detailed scientific analysis which will soon provide more insights and quantified results in the following weeks and months.”

• March 13, 2020: New data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite reveal the decline of air pollution, specifically nitrogen dioxide emissions, over Italy. This reduction is particularly visible in northern Italy which coincides with its nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 28)

Figure 23: The animation shows the fluctuation of nitrogen dioxide emissions across Europe from 1 January 2020 until 11 March 2020, using a 10-day moving average. These data are thanks to the TROPOMI instrument on board the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite which maps a multitude of air pollutants around the globe (video credit: ESA, the video contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2020), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

- Claus Zehner, ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager, comments, “The decline in nitrogen dioxide emissions over the Po Valley in northern Italy is particularly evident.

- “Although there could be slight variations in the data due to cloud cover and changing weather, we are very confident that the reduction in emissions that we can see, coincides with the lockdown in Italy causing less traffic and industrial activities.”

- Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programs, says, “Copernicus Sentinel-5P TROPOMI is the most accurate instrument today that measures air pollution from space. These measurements, globally available thanks to the free and open data policy, provide crucial information for citizens and decision makers."

- The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was recently declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, with more than 125,000 current cases of the disease reported globally. In Italy, the number of coronavirus cases drastically soared making it the country with the largest number of cases outside of China.

- In an attempt to reduce the spread of the disease, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a lockdown of the entire country – closing schools, restaurants, bars, museums and other venues across the country.

- The Sentinel-5 Precursor – also known as Sentinel-5P – is the first Copernicus mission dedicated to monitoring our atmosphere. The satellite carries the TROPOMI instrument to map a multitude of trace gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and aerosols – all of which affect the air we breathe and therefore our health, and our climate.

- Given the growing importance and need for the continuous monitoring of air quality, the upcoming Copernicus Sentinel-4 and Sentinel-5 missions, as part of the EU’s Copernicus program, will monitor key air quality trace gases and aerosols. These missions will provide information on air quality, stratospheric ozone and solar radiation, as well as climate monitoring.

• January 9, 2020: Ferocious bushfires have been sweeping across Australia since September, fuelled by record-breaking temperatures, drought and wind. The country has always experienced fires, but this season has been horrific. A staggering 10 million hectares of land have been burned, at least 24 people have been killed and it has been reported that almost half a billion animals have perished. The fires have not only decimated the land, but they have also had a serious effect on air quality. 29)

Figure 24: Aerosol spread from Australian fires. This animation shows the immense spread of aerosols from bushfires in southeast Australia between 28 December 2019 and 8 January 2020. These plumes of particles have swept over New Zealand and crossed the South Pacific Ocean, even reaching Chile and Argentina (video credit: ESA, the video contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019–20), processed by ESA)

• January 9, 2020: The Copernicus Sentinel-5 Precursor mission is dedicated to monitoring air pollution by measuring a multitude of trace gases that affect the air we breathe. 30)

Figure 25: The animation shows increasing concentrations of carbon monoxide between September and December along Australia’s southeast coast. - Carbon monoxide is commonly associated with traffic, but here we see the increase in atmospheric concentrations owing to the fires. Naturally, once in the air, it can cause problems for humans by reducing the amount of oxygen that can be transported in the bloodstream. - According to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, 2019 was the country’s warmest year on record. The fires are thought to be down to this specific weather phenomena and climate change (image credit: ESA)

• December 17, 2019: Data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite revealed that an explosion in a natural gas well in Ohio in February 2018 released more than 50,000 tons of methane into the atmosphere. The blowout leaked more of this potent greenhouse gas in 20 days than the majority of many European nations do in a year from their oil and gas industries. 31)

- The findings were published in a study published on 16 December 2019 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), and the study reveals the importance of using satellite data to detect and quantify pollutants such as methane. Data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P’s TROPOMI instrument revealed that 120 tons of methane were emitted per hour due to the blowout. 32)

- Claus Zehner, ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager, comments, “These Sentinel-5P measurements show that satellites can measure the concentrations of greenhouse gases emitted by a point source. The satellite’s capabilities will be further exploited with the upcoming Copernicus Carbon Dioxide Monitoring mission.”

- While carbon dioxide is more abundant in the atmosphere and therefore more commonly associated with global warming, methane is about 30 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas. It usually enters the atmosphere mainly from the fossil fuel industry, landfill sites, livestock farming, rice agriculture and wetlands – but can also be released during oil and gas extraction.

- Sentinel-5P, with its state-of-the-art instrument TROPOMI, can also map other pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and aerosols – all of which affect the air we breathe and our climate.


Figure 26: The location of the explosion is marked by a black dot in the image, and shows the methane emissions before and after the blowout. The black arrow indicates the wind direction and the direction of the methane plume (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2018), processed by SRON)

• November 8, 2019: The size of the ozone hole fluctuates – usually forming each year in August, with its peak in October, before finally closing in late November or December. Not only will the hole close earlier than usual in 2019, but it is also the smallest it has been in 30 years owing to unusual atmospheric conditions. 33)

- Forecasts from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), which uses total ozone measurements from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission processed at the German Aerospace Center, have forecasted that this year’s ozone hole will close sooner than usual.

Figure 27: The reduction of ozone concentrations in the stratosphere and the formation of the ozone hole each year are caused by complex meteorological and chemical processes. Changes in the ozone between 1 July and 3 November 2019 are displayed here as a 3D rendered animation (video credit: The video animation contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by CAMS/ECMWF)

- Antje Inness, CAMS Senior Scientist commented, “The ozone hole’s maximum extent this year was around 10 million km2, less than half of the size the ozone hole usually reached in the last decades. This makes it one of the smallest ozone holes since the 1980s. Our CAMS ozone forecasts predict that the ozone hole will close within a week.”

- ESA’s mission manager for Copernicus Sentinel-5P, Claus Zehner, noted, “This record-breaking small ozone hole size and duration during 2019 was caused by a warming of the stratosphere over the South Pole. However, it’s important to note that this is an unusual event and does not indicate that the global ozone recovery is speeding up.”

- Large fluctuations in polar vortices and temperatures in the stratosphere lead to ozone holes that vary in size. This year, the warmer polar stratosphere caused a slowing down of the wind fields around the South Pole, or the polar vortex, and reduced the formation of the ‘polar stratospheric clouds’ that enable the chemistry that leads to rapid ozone loss.

- Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation programs, said, "The ozone hole is a perfect example where scientific evidence led to significant policy change and subsequently changes in human behavior. The ozone hole was discovered in the 1970s, continuously monitored from space and by in situ devices and, finally in the 1980s led to the Montreal Protocol forbidding the use of chlorofluorocarbons.

- "Today, the ozone hole is recovering thanks to clear political action. This example shall serve as inspiration for climate change."


Figure 28: The ozone forecast charts are produced on a daily basis and show predictions for total vertical ozone column values for the Antarctic region up to five days ahead. This map is centered on the Antarctic region. Areas colored yellow, orange and red depict a high concentration of ozone, whereas green and blue areas are ozone depleted (image credit: ECMWF/CAMS)

Figure 29: This animation shows the size of the ozone hole in 2019 compared to 2018, based on Copernicus Sentinel-5P measurements (image credit: DLR-BIRA)

- High up in the stratosphere, the ozone acts as a shield to protect us from the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation, which is associated with skin cancer and cataracts, as well as other environmental issues.

- In the 1970s and 1980s, the widespread use of damaging chlorofluorocarbons in products such as refrigerators and aerosol tins damaged ozone high up in our atmosphere – which led to a hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica.

- In response to this, the Montreal Protocol was created in 1987 to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production and consumption of these harmful substances, which is leading to a recovery of the ozone layer.

- Recovery of the ozone hole will continue over the coming years. In the 2018 Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion, data shows that the ozone layer in parts of the stratosphere has recovered at a rate of 1-3% per decade since 2000. At these projected rates, the Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone is predicted to recover by around 2030, followed by the Southern Hemisphere around 2050, and polar regions by 2060.

- ESA has been involved in monitoring ozone for many years. Launched in October 2017, Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite maps a multitude of air pollutants around the globe. With its state-of-the-art instrument, TROPOMI, it is able to detect atmospheric gases to image air pollutants more accurately and at a higher spatial resolution than ever before from space.


Figure 30: The yearly ozone hole duration/extension from the year 2003 to 2019. The orange line shows the opening, extension and predicted closing of the 2019 ozone hole (image credit: Copernicus/ECMWF)

• September 9, 2019: The wildfires that have been devastating the Amazon rainforest have been international headline news over the last weeks. These fires are not only an environmental tragedy in terms of lost forest and biodiversity, but they are also leaving their mark on the atmosphere, affecting air quality and, potentially, the global climate. 34)


Figure 31: Using data from Copernicus Sentinel-5P, the image shows the difference in carbon monoxide in the air between July 2019 and August 2019 over the Amazon. This pollutant is often associated with traffic, but here we see the increase in atmospheric concentrations following the fires. Naturally, once in the air, it can cause problems for humans by reducing the amount of oxygen that can be transported in the bloodstream (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus data (2019), processed by SRON)

- In light of the climate crisis, the loss of swathes of forest is a serious concern. Everyone on Earth benefits from the health of rainforests like the Amazon. Trees acts as sinks for carbon, absorbing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide – one of the main greenhouse gases – and therefore helping to cool the planet.

- Consumed by fires in recent months, forests are releasing much of the carbon dioxide they once stored in their biomass back into the atmosphere. However, there are also a host of other pollutants entering the air. The Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission is being used to closely monitor the changes in air quality.

- The satellite carries the state-of-the-art TROPOMI instrument to map a multitude of trace gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and aerosols – all of which affect the air we breathe.


Figure 32: Using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission, the image shows how much formaldehyde was released from wildfires in Brazil in August 2019 compared to August 2018. The image also features Africa, which and has also experienced fires. Formaldehyde is an important intermediate gas in the oxidation of methane and other hydrocarbons. While it is short-lived in the atmosphere, it reacts chemically to become a major source of carbon monoxide – another harmful pollutant (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus data (2018/2019), processed by BIRA-IASB)

Figure 33: The animation shows aerosols over Brazil. When breathed in, these small particles can lead to cardiovascular conditions and lung problems. Aerosols also affect the climate by scattering and absorbing of incoming sunlight and trapping of outgoing long-wave radiation – and hence warming the planet. On 19–20 August the smoke from fires got so bad that the day appeared to be turned into night as São Paulo was plunged into darkness (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus data (2019), processed by KNMI)

- With both air pollution and climate change major global concerns, satellites play a key role in monitoring the constituents of the atmosphere so that authorities have access to accurate information to help respond to incidents such as these recent fires and, ultimately, formulate environmental policies.

- While Copernicus Sentinel-5P monitors air quality, one of the satellite missions in the same Copernicus family, Sentinel-3, is used to detect fires around the world.

Figure 34: Using Copernicus Sentinel-3 data, as part of the Sentinel-3 World Fires Atlas, the image shows that 79,000 fires were detected at night around the world in the month of August 2019 compared to 16,632 fires in August 2018 (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA on ONDA Copernicus DIAS)

- Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation programs, said, "Over the last months, we have observed more and more vegetation fires on our planet, in Brazil, Siberia, Greenland, Africa, Spain, Greece and many other places. Our Earth observation satellites keep a close eye on them in order to inform people and politicians with undisputed facts about our changing planet."

• June 20, 2019: New maps that use information from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite reveal emissions of nitrogen dioxide along a Siberian natural gas pipeline that connects the Urengoy gas field – the second-largest gas field in the world – with Europe. 35)

Figure 35: Nitrogen dioxide over Siberian pipelines. Measurements gathered by the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission between April and July 2018 show nitrogen dioxide emissions over the Urengoy–Pomary–Uzhhorod pipeline. The data has been overlaid onto a Google Earth image. The red line is for visualization purposes only (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2018), processed by KNMI. Overlying image from Google Earth)

- The Urengoy–Pomary–Uzhhorod pipeline is one of Russia’s main natural gas export pipelines. In order to maintain the pressure and flow over long distances, a series of compressor stations are strategically placed to help push the gas along.

- Compressor stations typically run on gas-powered turbines, and their high-temperature combustion usually leads to small quantities of nitrogen dioxide emissions being lost to the atmosphere.

- Until now, it has proved difficult to measure trace-gas concentrations over snow-covered regions such as Siberia, northern Europe and Canada, as it has been very difficult to distinguish clouds from snow and ice in the data retrieval algorithms – considering snow and clouds appear equally bright and cold.

- This reduced the number of months in which nitrogen dioxide could be measured at high altitudes, because satellite measurements were only trusted in summer months, once the snow had melted.

- Using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P’s TROPOMI instrument, scientists from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) have now solved this problem.

- If a bright ‘spot’ is detected very close to the height of the surface, it is presumed to be an ice or snow, or in extreme cases, very low-lying clouds such as fog.

- When scientists from KNMI began to investigate these measurements, they quickly noticed a string of spots of nitrogen dioxide, in an otherwise remote area of northern Siberia.

- “By using Google Earth, we could identify small industrial complexes along with what appeared to be a pipeline. By comparing maps of gas pipelines, Google Earth and street view images, we quickly determined that it was the Urengoy natural gas pipeline and gas compressor stations,” says Jos de Laat from KNMI.

- “We estimate the nitrogen dioxide emissions are typically 10—30 ton (N)/month, a small amount. These results show what the high-spatial resolution of TROPOMI combined with new and innovative detection methods, can do,” adds Ronald van der A also from KNMI. “For most locations, there is no nitrogen dioxide information during the snow season, but with this new method, nitrogen dioxide can be observed despite the snow.”

- Josef Aschbacher, Director of ESA’s Earth observation programs, comments, “We think, that these new results will offer new exciting possibilities for detecting smaller-scale emissions, that we did not even know existed today. This will be another example that will lead to a better understanding of air quality.”

Figure 36: Connecting the dots of the Urengoy pipeline. Measurements gathered by the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite between April and July 2018 show nitrogen dioxide emissions over Urengoy–Pomary–Uzhhorod pipeline. When scientists from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) began to investigate these measurements, they quickly noticed a string of spots of nitrogen dioxide, in an otherwise remote area of northern Siberia (video credit: ESA, the video contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2018), processed by KNMI. Overlying image from Google Earth)

• June 10, 2019: Most people get a health boost from exercise. But for those with heart disease or a lung condition such as asthma, exercising during periods of high urban air pollution can exacerbate rather than improve their condition. 36)

- Now scientists at the University of Leicester are developing a mobile application that uses data from Earth observation satellites to map pollution hotspots in towns and cities. The app will enable individuals not only to decide whether or not to go for a run, but also which route to take.

- The work is being funded by ESA’s program of ARTES (Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems), which aims to develop new business opportunities that benefit European and Canadian industry, in partnership with the UK Space Agency and NHS (National Health System) England.

- Andre Ng, Professor of Cardiac Electrophysiology at the University of Leicester, said: “Whilst we know physical activity is good for many patients with long-term conditions including heart and lung diseases, clinicians are often anxious about recommending exercise and often unable to prescribe accurate and effective exercise for their patients.

- “We will develop a patient-centered mobile app that takes in satellite data with unique resolution including that of air quality that delivers precise guideline-based exercise advice tailored to their condition and ability. This greatly enhances the confidence of both healthcare professionals to prescribe, and patients to put into practice, effective physical activity which improves well-being and reduces healthcare utilization.”

- The app will use data from the Sentinel-5P satellite that was launched in October 2017. It will combine this with realtime, high-resolution air quality data to deliver individualized and disease-specific exercise advice, with pollution warnings at resolutions of just 10 meters.

- Meanwhile a second app is also being developed, which aims to provide air quality forecasts to guide decisions on traffic management in polluted city centers. This is an evolution of work that received early support from ESA’s ARTES program.

- EarthSense, a spin-off company from the University of Leicester, is developing a tool that will enable urban dwellers to see both live and forecast pollution data for city center streets and school-run routes.

- It has just won a second round of funding to run and deliver an advanced demonstration of its technology, this time from Innovate UK.

- EarthSense will use realtime data from air quality sensors installed on streetlamps around Wolverhampton, which record levels of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter.

- “Using the information from the app, users can choose to avoid certain high pollution areas, reducing the amount of emissions inhaled, and hopefully divert traffic away from those areas, thereby reducing the levels of pollution,” said Tom Hall, Managing Director of EarthSense.


Figure 37: Urban running (image credit: ESA)

• April 5, 2019: Air quality: what’s space got to do with it? — Air pollution is a global environmental health problem that is responsible for millions of people dying prematurely every year. In cities and towns, traffic pumps pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide directly into the air we breathe, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, for example. Governments and decision-makers rely heavily on satellite data, such as that from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission, and computer models to show how pollution accumulates and how it is carried in the air so that they can develop appropriate mitigation strategies. 37)

Figure 38: The United Nations World Health Organization marks World Health Day on 7 April every year. The third Sustainable Development Goal underlines the right to health: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. On-orbit research, space technology and space applications can help improve health on Earth by monitoring our environment, helping track disease, improving diagnostics, and working on new medicines among other things. The UN is also focusing particularly this year on universal health coverage (video credit: ESA, Published on 5 April 2019)

• March 12, 2019: New maps that use information from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite reveal nitrogen dioxide emission being released into the atmosphere in cities and towns across the globe. 38)

- Air pollution is a global environmental health problem that is responsible for millions of people dying prematurely every year. With air quality a serious concern, the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite was launched in October 2017 to map a multitude of air pollutants around the globe.


Figure 39: Nitrogen dioxide worldwide: Measurements gathered by the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission between April and September 2018 have been averaged to reveal nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere. The data were averaged and gridded on a regular latitude-longitude grid of about 2 x 2 km. Nitrogen dioxide pollutes the air mainly as a result of traffic and the combustion of fossil fuel in industrial processes. It has a significant impact on human health, contributing particularly to respiratory problems (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus data (2018), processed by KNMI)


Figure 40: Nitrogen dioxide over Europe: Based on measurements gathered by the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission between April and September 2018, the image shows high levels of nitrogen dioxide in London, Paris, Brussels, western Germany, Milan and Moscow. Nitrogen dioxide pollutes the air mainly as a result of traffic and the combustion of fossil fuel in industrial processes. It has a significant impact on human health, contributing particularly to respiratory problems (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus data (2018), processed by KNMI)

- The satellite carries the most advanced sensor of its type to date: TROPOMI. This state-of-the-art instrument detects the unique fingerprint of atmospheric gases to image air pollutants more accurately and at a higher spatial resolution than ever before.

- “The European Commission is extremely satisfied with the performance of its satellite,” says Mauro Facchini from the European Commission. “It is a major step forward for Copernicus and European Union’s capacity to monitor air quality.”

- It has already delivered key information on sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide, for example. Now measurements gathered between April and September 2018 have been averaged to show exactly where nitrogen dioxide is polluting the air.

- This kind of pollution results from traffic and the combustion of fossil fuel in industrial processes. It can cause significant health issues by irritating the lungs and can contribute to respiratory problems.

- Henk Eskes, from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), comments, “The map shows emissions from major cities, but also medium-size towns. With Copernicus Sentinel-5P’s TROPOMI instrument, we can observe pollution from individual power plants and other industrial complexes, major highways, and we can identify many more ship tracks than we could before.

- “The TROPOMI instrument has a spatial resolution of 3.5 x 7 km, compared to the resolution of 24 x 13 km we had from the OMI (Ozone Monitoring Instrument) on NASA’s Aura mission. TROPOMI is basically ten times better.

- “This is very valuable in improving our knowledge on how different sectors contribute to the overall emission of nitrogen oxides.”


Figure 41: Nitrogen dioxide levels over the Middle East: Based on measurements gathered by the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission between April and September 2018, the image shows high levels of nitrogen dioxide in Cairo, Lebanon, Dubai and other parts of the Middle East. Nitrogen dioxide pollutes the air mainly as a result of traffic and the combustion of fossil fuel in industrial processes. It has a significant impact on human health, contributing particularly to respiratory problems (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus data (2018), processed by KNMI)


Figure 42: Nitrogen dioxide levels over China and Japan: Based on measurements gathered by the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission between April and September 2018, the image shows high levels of nitrogen dioxide emissions in China and Japan. Nitrogen dioxide pollutes the air mainly as a result of traffic and the combustion of fossil fuel in industrial processes. It has a significant impact on human health, contributing in particular to respiratory problems (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus data (2018), processed by KNMI)

- Claus Zehner, ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager, added, “Although we are not thrilled to see all this pollution, we are very happy to see that the satellite is delivering on its promise.

- “The spatial resolution really sets the mission apart, which is exactly what is needed to monitor air pollution and understand where it is coming from.”

- Vincent–Henri Peuch from the ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts) says, “The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, known as CAMS, and operated by ECMWF on behalf of the European Union, is monitoring these nitrogen dioxide data in its daily operations.

- “Current data assimilation tests show a positive impact on the air-quality forecasts, and we expect to upgrade from monitoring to operational assimilation in the coming months.”

- CAMS senior scientist, Antje Inness, added, “CAMS is indeed testing the use of the nitrogen dioxide data in its global forecasting system and hopes to operationally implement this later this year.”

- “The TROPOMI data show amazing details, but the combination of forecast models and satellite observations within CAMS adds extra value. While TROPOMI provides incredible views of pollution hot spots from above, the CAMS global and European forecast models translate this information into concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants at ground level. CAMs then forecasts the values for the next four to five days.”


Figure 43: Tropospheric column nitrogen dioxide over Europe: Tropospheric nitrogen dioxide column (in 1015 mole/cm2) over Europe on 27 February 2019 at 12:00 from CAMS, assimilating Copernicus Sentinel-5P TROPOMI measurements for testing (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus data (2018), processed by ECMWF)

• March 4, 2019: The Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission has been used to produce global maps of two atmospheric gases responsible for making our world warmer: methane, which is a particularly potent greenhouse gas, and ozone, which is a greenhouse gas and a pollutant in the lower part of the atmosphere. The maps give insight into where these gases are coming from. 39)

- Launched in October 2017, Sentinel-5P is the first Copernicus satellite dedicated to monitoring our atmosphere. It carries an advanced multispectral imaging spectrometer called Tropomi to image a wide range of air pollutants more accurately and at a higher spatial resolution than ever before.

- Prior to making data available to the public, scientists spend months testing and evaluating the information to make sure it is accurate. The mission is already being used to map pollutants such as nitrogen and sulphur dioxide and to monitor the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica.

- And now, data on methane and ozone in the troposphere, which is the lower part of the atmosphere, are available.


Figure 44: Atmospheric methane mapped by the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that enters the atmosphere mainly from the fossil fuel industry, landfill sites, livestock farming, rice agriculture and wetlands. Thanks to the mission’s spatial resolution of 7 x 7 km and global coverage every 24 hours, methane emissions can be mapped on regional scales and also for larger point sources. These data are now available to the user community (image credit:ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus data (2018–19), processed by SRON)

- While carbon dioxide is more abundant in the atmosphere and therefore more commonly associated with global warming, methane is about 30 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas. It enters the atmosphere mainly from the fossil fuel industry, landfill sites, livestock farming, rice agriculture and wetlands.

- Jochen Landgraf, from the SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research, said, “We have spent more than a year carefully testing the methane data and now the availability of data to everyone offers new opportunities for climate services.


Figure 45: Atmospheric methane mapped by the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission over wetlands in Nigeria between November 2018 and February 2019. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that enters the atmosphere mainly from the fossil fuel industry, landfill sites, livestock farming, rice agriculture and wetlands. Thanks to the mission’s spatial resolution of 7 x 7 km and global coverage every 24 hours, methane emissions can be mapped on regional scales and also for larger point sources. These data are now available to the user community (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus data (2018–19), processed by SRON)

- “Like all gases that enter the atmosphere, methane is spread by the wind, so it is unclear where it originates. But thanks to Tropomi’s ability to measures at a spatial resolution of 7 x 7 km and global coverage every 24 hours, we can see daily methane emissions on regional scales and also larger point sources. - This information is important for policy makers working on climate regulations and for checking that countries adhere to agreements.”

- Michael Buchwitz, from the University of Bremen, Germany, and who leads ESA’s Climate Change Initiative greenhouse gas project, noted, “Over the coming months we will be further studying these data in detail, comparing them with ground-based observations and global models, but we expected that a lot can be learned about atmospheric methane and its various emission sources.”

- The new data release also includes tropospheric ozone. Ozone high up in the stratosphere shields us from the Sun’s harmful rays of ultraviolet radiation, but lower down in the troposphere it is a pollutant and can cause respiratory problems and can damage vegetation. Ozone is also a greenhouse gas.

- Diego Loyola, from the German Aerospace Center, explains, “Ozone in the troposphere is an air pollutant and a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming.”

Figure 46: Tropospheric ozone between January 2018 and January 2019 measured by the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission. Ozone lower down in the atmosphere – in the troposphere – is an air pollutant and a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming. It is difficult to measure because of its short lifespan and because concentrations can vary hugely from place to place. The unprecedented spatial resolution offered by Copernicus Sentinel-5P’s Tropomi instrument means that the complex relationship between tropospheric ozone and climate can be better understood (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus data (2018–19), processed by DLR)

- “Tropospheric ozone is a difficult greenhouse gas to measure because of its short lifespan and the fact that concentrations can vary hugely from place to place,” continued Dr Loyola.

- “The unprecedented spatial resolution offered by Copernicus Sentinel-5P’s Tropomi instrument means that we can now better analyze the complex relationship between tropospheric ozone and climate.”

- Claus Zehner, ESA’s Sentinel-5P mission manager, noted, “With this new methane and tropospheric ozone data release, we are now providing almost all of the Copernicus Sentinel-5P’s data products to the user community. Both products are important for monitoring climate change and can also be used to gain experience for future missions such as for the candidate Copernicus expansion mission that is being developed to measure carbon dioxide.”

- The Tropomi instrument was developed jointly by ESA and the Netherlands Space Office.

Sensor complement: (TROPOMI)

The Sentinel-5P mission is an atmospheric chemistry mission, providing measurements at high temporal and spatial resolution. Its payload, the TROPOMI (Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument), is being supplied as a national contribution to the GMES program by the Netherlands. The TROPOMI instrument design is of SCIAMACHY and OMI heritage; Dutch institutions provided major contributions in the development of these instruments.

OMI was launched in 2004 on NASA’s Aura spacecraft and SCIAMACHY in 2002 on ESA’s Envisat mission. Both instruments are very successful. Since OMI started observing the atmosphere, its service has never been interrupted. SCIAMACHY, OMI and TROPOMI are passive sun backscatter spectrographs using the ultraviolet-to-SWIR wavelengths. SCIAMACHY uses a scanning concept and linear detector arrays, and covers almost the entire Solar irradiance spectrum from 240 to 2400 nm. OMI is scaled down in terms of wavelength range (270 –500 nm) but uses a staring pushbroom concept. This concept measures all ground pixels in the swath simultaneously and therefore allows a much improved spatial resolution. 40) 41) 42)

TROPOMI takes the best of the two by combining the large wavelength range of SCIAMACHY (albeit with some gaps) and with OMI's staring concept. The full advantage of staring concept is taken by reducing the ground pixel size to 7 x 7 km2 and on top of that making the instrument suitable for very dark scenes (albedo 2 – 5 %). This means that the instrument etendue is improved by more than an order of magnitude. This allows for unprecedented observations of sources and sinks of air quality, and climate related gases and aerosols. The spatial resolution results in a high fraction of cloud-free observations and is combined with a wide swath of 104° (about 2600 km on ground) to allow daily coverage of the complete Earth with sub-city resolution, as illustrated by Figure 47.


Figure 47: A schematic view of the 7 x 7 km2 ground pixel resolution of TROPOMI (T) compared to OMI, SCIAMACHY and GOME-2 (image credit: Dutch Space, Ref. 40)

The basic TROPOMI applications are:

• Monitoring changes in the atmospheric composition (e.g. ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), formaldehyde (CH2O), and the properties of aerosols and clouds at high temporal (daily) resolution.

• Troposphere variability.


Figure 48: TROPOMI system breakdown and unit suppliers (image credit: Dutch Space)

TROPOMI (Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument):

TROPOMI is an advanced nadir-viewing imaging absorption spectrometer, a DOAS (Differential Optical Absorption Spectrometer) instrument, to provide data on atmospheric trace gases and aerosols impacting air quality and climate. The instrument is being co-funded by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and ESA. ESA signed an agreement with the Netherlands in July 2009; the instrument development is led by Dutch Space, Leiden, The Netherlands, as prime contractor (Ref. 1). 43) 44)

TROPOMI is a collaboration between KNMI (Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute), SRON (Space Research Organization Netherlands), TNO (Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research), and Dutch Space, on behalf of NSO (Netherlands Space Office). KNMI (PI) and SRON (co-PI) are responsible for the scientific management and the data products of the project. Dutch Space is the principal contractor for the construction of the instrument. The TROPOMI development is jointly funded by NSO and ESA; both agencies cover the programmatic aspects of TROPOMI. 45) 46) 47)

NSO responsibility is the development, procurement, calibration, in-orbit commissioning of TROPOMI, and the generation of Level-1B data. ESA is responsible of the procurement of the satellite, the ground segment, the launch and in-orbit commissioning. The implementation of the Sentinel-5P mission is performed by a ESA/NSO Joint Project Team (JPT).

The instrument development passed its Instrument-PDR review (IPDR) in May 2011. The IPDR was conducted as a top down review and subsystem PDRs followed in the remainder of 2011. 48)

In May 2014, the TROPOMI instrument for ESA’s Sentinel 5-precursor satellite, is in its final stages of integration now and many hardware results are becoming available. This concerns at this moment the SWIR, UVIS and NIR spectrometers and all flight detectors and soon the remaining UV spectrometer. 49)

Some background:

TROPOMI is the most recent in a series of UV-VIS-NIR-SWIR sun backscatter hyper spectral instruments that measure the atmospheric composition. These instruments measure with or without polarization the combination of Earth and sun spectra. From their ratio, the reflectance spectra, absorptions taking place in the Earth atmosphere are derived. Concentrations of trace gases can be determined because these gases have very specific wavelength-dependent absorption features (Figure 49). Other products, like aerosols, clouds and surface properties, have broader absorption structures and can be derived after accurate radiometric calibration (Ref. 47).

After NASA's EOS-Aura satellite, carrying the OMI instrument, and ESA's Envisat satellite, carrying the SCIAMACHY instrument, no other instrumentation was planned in space with comparable capabilities as OMI and SCIAMACHY until the launch of the GMES Sentinel 5 mission in 2020. - This means that from ultimately 2014 onward, a data gap will exist in measuring the troposphere from space. The GOME-2 and IASI instruments on MetOp will not be able to cover this gap, due to their limited spatial resolution and lack of CH4 and CO measurements with good sensitivity down to the Earth’s surface. For these reasons, the TROPOMI instrument has been defined as the successor of OMI and SCIAMACHY and bridge the time period from 2015 on Sentinel-5P until the GMES instrumentation on Sentinel-5. 50)

The TROPOMI mission objective is to measure the troposphere for scientific research, and in support of services to society, down to the Earth’s surface, with sufficiently high spatio-temporal resolution to quantify anthropogenic and natural emissions and atmospheric life cycles of trace gases (O3, CO, HCHO, and SO2) and two major greenhouse gases (tropospheric O3 and methane (CH4)). In addition, aerosol particles will be monitored, which impact on air quality and climate forcing from the regional to the global scale. 51) 52)

Derived from the overall mission objective, the TROPOMI science objectives are:

• To better constrain the strength, evolution, and spatio-temporal variability of the sources of trace gases and aerosols impacting air quality and climate.

• To improve upon the attribution of climate forcing by a better understanding of the processes controlling the lifetime and distribution of methane, tropospheric ozone, and aerosols.

• To better estimate long-term trends in the troposphere, related to air quality and climate from the regional to the global scale, and provide boundary conditions for assessing local and regional air quality.

• To develop and improve air quality model processes and data assimilation in support of operational services, including air quality forecasting and protocol monitoring.

Besides filling the gap, TROPOMI combines the strengths of SCIAMACHY, OMI, and state of the art technology to provide observations with performances that cannot be met with today’s instruments in space. Performance of current in-orbit instruments will be surpassed in terms of sensitivity, spectral resolution, spatial resolution and temporal resolution. However, TROPOMI will observe a smaller part of the spectrum compared with SCIAMACHY as is shown in Figure 49.

Programmatic aspects: The schedule of the Sentinel-5P program is very compact with respect to similar traditional programs. To achieve this schedule and to reduce costs of the instrument development, measures are taken in the development process of TROPOMI. These measures are, amongst others: reducing the number of requirements, reducing the number of documents to be generated, using ECSS’s as guidelines rather than applicable documents, an efficient decision making process and applying the LightSat approach defined by ESA. The LightSat approach relaxes product assurance requirements and allows higher risk in some areas. On the satellite level, parallel procurement of the spacecraft platform and the instrument is applied to achieve the compact schedule. This requires flexibility in the development processes of the instrument and the spacecraft.


Figure 49: TROPOMI spectral window compared with GOME, SCIAMACHY and OMI (image credit: Dutch Space, TNO)

The development of the TROPOMI instrument was started long before the development of the spacecraft platform was selected. Of course, this is normal procedure for a complex payload that needs to be designed compared to the spacecraft platform with a standard bus architecture. This is one of the reasons that the spacecraft selection took place in a late stage of the development of TROPOMI (Ref. 40).

The CDR (Critical Dign Review) of the TROPOMI instrument is planned for end of 2012, early 2013. 53)

Instrument: The TROPOMI instrument is a pushbroom type imaging spectrometer (use of 2D detector technology) that covers a spectral range from ultraviolet to visible and selected bands in near-infrared, referred to as UVN (UV-VIS-NIR), and SWIR (Short Wave Infrared) around 2.3 µm. The relevant subsystems are: 54) 55) 56) 57) 58) 59)

• Instrument Telescope

• Instrument Calibration Unit

• UVN spectrometer, funded by NSO

• SWIR spectrometer

• ICU (Instrument Control Unit)

• TSS (Telescope Support Structure)

• RC (Radiant Cooler)

• GSE (Ground Support Equipment), funded by ESA.

The instrument is mounted on a TSS (Telescope Support Structure) which in turn in mounted onto the spacecraft (S/C) (Figure 50). A passive thermal radiator is used to reject heat from the system.

The main building blocks of TROPOMI are the following (Figure 50):

• UVN (UV-VIS-NIR) module, with telescope, three spectrograph bands and the calibration module

• SWIR module, with SWIR spectrograph

• ICU, the control unit and electrical spacecraft interface

• Thermal radiator, the passive detector and SWIR module cooler

Part of the spectrographs are the detector modules with 2-dimensional detector (CCD for the UVN and CMOS for the SWIR).

The UVN module consists of the telescope – which is shared by the UVN and the SWIR – and the 3 UVN spectrometer channels (UV, UVIS and NIR) each equipped with individual detector units. The telescope has a very wide FOV of 108º. A polarization scrambler is placed in the optical path to make the measurements insensitive to the polarization state of the incoming light. The light from the telescope is separated in the flight direction by a reflective slit. This means that the UV and SWIR channels will see a slightly shifted part of the Earth than the UVIS and NIR channels (Figure 51).


Figure 50: TROPOMI functional block diagram (image credit: Dutch Space, TNO, Ref. 58)


Figure 51: Projection of the spectrometer slit on-ground (image credit: Dutch Space, TNO)

Legend to Figure 51: The so-called spatial smile is caused by off-axis mirrors in the telescope. The NIR (and UVIS) channel use a common slit, while the SWIR (and UV1) channels are in-field separated by ~1º in the flight direction.

CU (Calibration Unit): The CU includes the following:

• Two sun diffusers; one for regular use, one as a backup

• WLS (White Light Source); PRNU (Photo Response Non-Uniformity) calibration and on-ground health checks

• A LED (Light-Emitting Diode) to monitor the short term variation in the output of the WLS

• For the SWIR channel, a number of laser diodes are placed in the CU, in order to be able to monitor the instrument spectral response function.

Besides the sun, a WLS, SLS (Spectral Light Source), common LEDs and channel specific LEDs are used for calibration purposes in eclipse. The WLS which is implemented using a halogen light bulb, since it provides a broad spectral range. The LEDs, positioned close to the WLS, are used to analyze the small WLS degradation. The WLS and the LEDs calibration light will pass the spectrograph. Therefore, channel LEDs are positioned close to the detectors that are used to be able to distinguish the degradations of the optical components and the detectors. The fifth calibration source is the SLS that is implemented using temperature-controlled Laser Diodes. This calibration source is located in the CU and is solely used for in flight calibration of the SWIR channel. The Laser Diodes have a very narrow spectrum that will be shifted by varying the temperature of the Laser Diodes.

The general instrument layout is shown in Figures 57 and 58. The UVN (UV-VIS-NIR) module contains the UVN spectrometer bands, the telescope and the calibration unit. The UVN module is accommodated on the UVN-OBM (Optical Bench Module). The SWIR spectrograph has its own module for thermal reasons. Since a shared telescope is used, the light for the SWIR channel is guided by relay optics in the UVN-OBM to the SWIR module.

All detectors are optimized for the light that they will detect. The UVIS and NIR detectors have a graded anti-reflective coating, in order to reduce stray light and decrease interference effects in the silicon. The SWIR optics and detector need to be cooled down to ~200 K and 140 K, respectively, to achieve the required performance. The UVN detectors operate at 210 K and 220 K, and the UVN-OBM is maintained at room temperature. The two-stage RC (Radiant Cooler) enables cooling of the optical and electrical components. Thermal busses consisting of heat pipes and flex links form the thermal interfaces with the radiant cooler. The radiant cooler is equipped with a large door that blocks irradiance from Earth (not shown in the figures). This cooler door must be stowed to fit inside the launcher fairing. Once Sentinel-5P is in orbit, the cooler door will be opened after one month. This delay prevents that the cooler areas will be contaminated by outgassing particles from the spacecraft and other instrument units by keeping these cooler surfaces warm.

The UVN module is developed by Dutch Space and TNO. The SWIR module is the cooled module containing the SWIR spectrograph and is developed by SSTL in the UK. The multilayer optical coatings are developed at CILAS Etablissement de Marseille (France).

SWIR detector/FEE subsystem:

The SWIR detector is from Sofradir (France), it is controlled by FEE (Front-End Electronics) developed by SRON. The SWIR spectrum is projected onto a Sofradir-developed 2D detector array consisting of 1000 spectral pixels and 256 spatial pixels on a 30 µm pitch, the Saturn geometry. The detector consists of an HgCdTe-based photo-sensitive layer on top of an CdZnTe substrate with a protective layer, also acting as a reflection-limiting layer. This stack is hybridized by indium bump bonds to a silicon ROIC (Read-Out Integrated Circuit) where the signal charge is converted into a voltage by CTIA (Capacitive Trans-impedance Amplifiers). Upon read out, the signal of each individual pixel is clocked simultaneously onto a sample-and-hold circuit. Signals are subsequently clocked onto 4 parallel video output lines and amplified and digitized by the FEE (Ref. 49).

The SWIR detector is mounted in a hermetically-closed package with an anti-reflection coated silicon window. The detector package is mounted onto a molybdenum base plate, attached to an aluminum cold finger providing the connection to the cold-stage radiator (Figure 52). The operational temperature of the SWIR detector is 140 K. The cold detector is connected to the 200 K SWIR spectrometer by a thin-walled titanium double cone. This construction is very stable, closed for EMI (Electro-Magnetic Interference) and provides thermal insulation. An anti-reflection coated silicon window just before the SWIR detector prevents any water vapor from freezing onto the cold detector window. The small volume around the detector is vented though the cold finger and through a PTFE (PolyTetraFluoroEthylene) tube to space. This prevents any water vapor from reaching the cold detector from this side. The measures to prevent water from reaching the detector are based on lessons learned from the EnviSat/Sciamachy SWIR channels.


Figure 52: Schematic view of the SWIR detector module (image credit: TROPOMI consortium)

All electrical signals between the cold detector and the warm front-end electronics are carried by a multi-layer kapton-copper flex link. Both outer surfaces of the flex link contain a copper mesh to provide protection against EMI.

The room-temperature FEE powers and commands the SWIR detector. It amplifies the four analog video-output signals of the detector and provides digitization by using four 14 bit ADCs (Maxwell 9240LP, with the AD9240 chip of Analog Devices inside). Digital detector data and house-keeping data are relayed to the ICU (Instrument Control Unit) using the ChannelLink protocol. All communication with the ICU as well as all coordination inside the FEE is performed by a RTAX2000S FPGA.

The SWIR detector is read with a pixel speed of 800 kHz, leading to a frame-read time of 82 ms, and a maximum frame rate of 12 Hz. This is much lower than the detector capabilities, but sufficient for the application. The FEE controls the detector temperature by reading the two internal T-sensors of the Saturn detector and a PID algorithm in the FPGA. Thin-film heaters are mounted at the back of the molybdenum plate. A typical detector temperature stability obtained is 6 mK rms.

The combination of the TROPOMI SWIR detector and its FEE has been thoroughly characterized. Only the memory between two consecutive readings is with 1.6 - 1.9 % out of spec, leading to a data correction. Where this correction is not complete an effective smear of information from one ground pixel to the next has to be accepted. The detector performance on sensitivity, dark current, noise, and their uniformities are better than specified, as well as the linearity and the number of dead pixels. Overall, the performance of the SWIR detector and its FEE is considered very good for the TROPOMI application.

SWIR module: The SWIR module on TROPOMI, designed and developed by SSTL, is a pushbroom grating spectrometer operating between 2305-2385 nm. The system has a spatial resolution of approximately 7 x 7 km2 at nadir and covers a swath of 2670 km. The SWIR module will be used to measure the concentration of methane and carbon monoxide in the Earth’s atmosphere providing global daily coverage from a sun-synchronous orbit.

The optical design consists of a telescope, slit, collimator, immersed grating, anamorphic prism and an imaging lens. The SWIR telescope forms an image of ground on the SWIR Spectrometer slit. The slit acts as a spatial filter selecting a strip of ground as an input to the rest of the spectrometer. A collimator takes light from the slit and creates collimated beams as an input to the immersed grating. The immersed grating disperses the collimated beams in the along track direction and the anamorphic prism and imaging lens form a dispersed image of the slit on the detector. A band pass filter is manufactured as part of the slit prism and restricts light that can reach the detector from outside the operational waveband.

The SWIR immersed grating is supplied by SRON and the SWIR detector is supplied by Sofradir. The SWIR optics are mounted in housings off a common optical bench. The optical bench is mounted off the TROPOMI telescope support structure with bipods; the bipods form a pseudoisostatic mount. The optical bench is a two piece aluminum alloy sandwich plate. Optical mounts are mounted on both sides of the optical bench. The optical bench provides a stiff framework and attachment points for mounts to be structurally connected. Aluminum alloy is selected in order to minimize thermal gradients. The optical housings are manufactured in titanium and flexure supports are used to accommodate for the difference in CTE (Coefficient of Thermal Expansion) between the housings and the optical bench. The assembled SWIR module is shown in Figure 53.


Figure 53: Photo of the TROPOMI SWIR spectrometer module (image credit: TROPOMI consortium, Ref. 49)

The ICU is the main electronics unit including clock sequencers for detector readout and is developed by RUAG in Sweden; the TSS (Astrium Germany) is the structure carrying the UVN with telescope and the SWIR modules.


Figure 54: TROPOMI measurement principle (image credit: KNMI) 60)

Telescope design: TROPOMI is a pushbroom instrument imaging a very wide field of view on Earth on a rectangular slit. The slit is relayed to four spectrometers for four different channels (UV, UVIS, NIR, and SWIR). In one direction, the spatial information is resolved over the long direction of the slit. This direction is referred to as the swath direction. In the other direction, spatial information is resolved by ‘sweeping’ over the Earth surface. This is the flight direction. 61)


Figure 55: 3D view of the TROPOMI telescope (image credit: TNO)

Design with freeform mirrors: The telescope is shown in Figure 55. Light from Earth passes the entrance pupil and is reflected by a concave primary mirror that forms an intermediate focus. The intermediate focus is imaged by a second concave mirror on the spectrometer entrance slit. The entrance pupil is imaged in the focal plane of the second mirror, where the physical pupil stop is located. This has the advantage that the light beams leave the telescope nearly parallel (i.e. the image is telecentric), which eases the design of the spectrometers, keeping the dimensions small. Near the pupil stop, a polarization scrambler is placed to make the telescope polarization independent. In the vicinity of the intermediate focus, two field limiting apertures are present: one limits the field in the swath direction and functions as an actual field limiter. The other limits the field in the perpendicular direction (referred to as flight direction). The latter functions as a baffling aperture.

The telescope is an almost perfect f-q system: the angle in the swath direction in the entrance pupil depends linearly on the position in the slit. In the flight direction, the angle in the entrance pupil depends quadratically on the position in the slit. This latter effect is called ‘smile’, after the shape of the field of view in the entrance pupil.

Diamond turning: The freeform mirrors cannot be manufactured using conventional tools. They are both non-spherical and have no axis of symmetry. The sag of the non-rotational symmetric terms varies on the order of 1 mm. In addition to the requirements on resolution, which dictates the form and the tolerances on the surface shape, other issues to deal with are throughput and stray light, dictating requirements on reflectivity and roughness, respectively.

Measurement: Suitable absolute metrology is a key ingredient in the freeform production chain. Specifically for freeform measurement, the project developed a unique absolute metrology tool called NANOMEFOS (Non-contact Measurement Machine for aspheric and Freeform Optics) 62) that has the capability of non-contact measuring surfaces with an uncertainty of better than 15 nm rms. It is fast, universal, and can accommodate large work pieces. Typical sampling speed is as high as several tens of thousands of points per minute. Its measurement volume is ∅ 500 mm x 100 mm. The NANOMEFOS machine scans the surface with an optical probe, and therefore has variable point spacing. The sampling point distance is in practice limited by the measurement time. For measuring form, ~0.1 to 1 mm is usually applied, but also line scans with mm point spacing can be applied, thus giving the possibility to perform measurements over a very large spatial frequency range.

The measurement concept resembles a giant CD-player (Fig. 6). The product is mounted on a spindle, rotating at typical speed of a few rpm around a q axis. As the product rotates, the non-contact optical distance probe moves in radial and vertical (RZ) direction. Mounted on a rotation axis Ψ, it is continuously being positioned perpendicular to the best fit (rotationally symmetric) aspheric fit of the product. The probe follows focus with an additional stage with a range of 5 mm. Thus, NANOMEFOS is able to measure any freeform surface with a that has up to 5 mm (PV) maximum deviation with respect to the best fit aspheric (convex or concave) surface.


Figure 56: NANOMEFOS machine concept with long range optical probe and separate metrology frame (image credit: TNO)

For TROPOMI a pushbroom telescope was designed that combines a very high resolution of better than 0.1° with a large FOV of 108° and a f/9 x f/10 aperture. Applying fully freeform surfaces, the telescope could be realized using no more than two mirrors. The improvement over predecessor OMI would not have been feasible without the freeform design.


Figure 57: The TROPOMI external instrument configuration with view on entrance ports (image credit: Dutch Space)

Legend to Figure 57: The SWIR module is located at the right and the UVN in the center; the telescope with the 108º wide FOV (Field-of View) angle is in front as well as the sun viewing port.

Figure 57 shows how the UVN module and telescope and the SWIR module are mounted on a common base plate. The telescope and UVN module have a common structure and the light from the telescope is fed into the SWIR module via relay optics.


Figure 58: The TROPOMI external instrument configuration with view on the SWIR module (image credit: Dutch Space)

All four TROPOMI detectors have their own read-out and control modules that have the functions of detector readout, analog-to-digital conversion, and detector thermal control. The UVN detectors are back-illuminated CCD detectors read out by Detector Modules (UVN-DEMs) that share the same design. The SWIR channel employs a CMOS detector and has a dedicated Front End Electronics module (SWIR-FEE) for detector readout and detector thermal control.

The UVN-DEMs and SWIR modules are all FPGA-based modules that are powered, controlled, and read out by the ICU (Instrument Control Unit) positioned inside the spacecraft. The ICU takes care of processing the data and forwarding the data to the spacecraft mass memory. The electrical interfaces used to transfer the science data are 140 Mbit/s Channel Link interfaces between the detectors modules and the ICU and an 80 Mbit/s SpaceWire interface between the ICU and spacecraft mass memory. - Besides controlling the detector modules, reading-out, processing and forwarding science data, the ICU provides other functions to the TROPOMI instrument. These functions are; providing thermal control to all instrument units, controlling the calibration light sources and mechanisms, and providing engineering data for instrument health status. 63)


Figure 59: Layout of the UVN-DEM (Detector Electronics Module), image credit: TROPOMI consortium, (Ref. 49)

The mass of the TROPOMI instrument is 220 kg. This is fairly low taking into account the instruments capability; this has been made possible by the SWIR design using a specially developed silicon immersed grating (Figure 60). The power consumption is: 170 W (average) and 382 W (max).

Mass of TROPOMI instrument

220 kg

Mass of ICU (Instrument Control Unit)

17.4 kg

Overall instrument size (stowed configuration)

1.40 m x 0.65 m x 0.75 m

Average operational power consumption

~170 W

Science data rate

20 GByte/orbit

Table 4: Physical properties of the TROPOMI instrument

Achieving the performances listed in Table 5 in combination with the coregistration (the same viewing direction for all wavelengths of the given detector rows) and SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio) requirements, the alignment and thermal control of the optical elements are key requirements. The TSS (Telescope Support Structure) uses a 10 cm thick honeycomb slab with a 3 mm face-sheets base plate that ensures proper mounting and alignment of the units and serves as mechanical interface with the spacecraft.

Spectral characteristics: The spectral properties of each of the spectrometers are shown in Table 5. The spatial sampling is 7 km x 7 km with the exception of bands 1 and 6. Band 1 has a larger ground pixel to allow good SNR given the low radiances for these wavelengths. Band 6 is used to obtain the most important cloud products and is read at higher spatial resolution to have as good as possible coregistration of these cloud products and the other bands.

Band No

Spectral band

Spectral range (nm)

Spectral resolution (nm)

Spectral sampling (nm)

Spatial sampling (km2)

binning factor







21 x 28








7 x 7








7 x 7








7 x 7








7 x 7








7 x 1.8







< 0.1

7 x 7



Table 5: Performance characteristics of the TROPOMI spectral bands

The UVIS and NIR bands make use of the same spectrograph slit whereas the UV and SWIR have separate slits. This allows having a wider slit for the UV to compensate for the lower radiance for these wavelengths and for the SWIR it allows to have the slit included in the cooled SWIR module. The different slits result in slightly different viewing angles in the flight direction.


Figure 60: Illustration of the TROPOMI instrument (TNO, Dutch Space)

The DOAS (Differential Optical Absorption Spectrometer) radiometry of Earth’s atmosphere trace gases is the new frontier of remote sensing. To achieve the required instrument performance it is necessary to have very stable spectrometers with high spectral resolution and high SNR. TROPOMI is paving the way not only for future high end instruments that will be embarked on the next ESA Sentinel 5 mission, but it is also the opportunity to build a solid technology platform to be used as stepping stone for future instruments. While high end applications as Sentinel 5 will further push the limit of the technology, a number of simpler and more affordable, but still meaningful, instruments could be designed using the technology platform developed for TROPOMI. The TROPOMI technology platform encompasses materials, manufacturing processes, metrology, calibration, and equally important, a tight cooperation between the engineering and science teams (Ref. 46).






Data since/from

January 2007

June 2007

Fall 2014


Overpass time





Spectral coverage

650-790 nm

757-775 nm

757-775 nm

675-775 nm

Spatial sampling





Spatial resolution of single measurements

40 km x 80 km

10 km diameter

1.3 km x 2.25 km

7 km x 7 km

Spatial resolution of global composites



Sensitivity of SIF retrieval to cloud contamination



Very low


Approx. Number of clear sky observations/day





Table 6: Comparison of performance parameters of GHG (Greenhouse Gas) missions (Ref. 59)

Introduction of innovative technology:

The most important innovation in the TROPOMI-SWIR band is the silicon immersed grating developed by SRON, together with TNO. Compared to normal gratings, the silicon immersed grating works more efficient, yielding to a smaller grating and a much smaller SWIR module in terms of volume and mass. For the TROPOMI SWIR module this innovation enabled a volume reduction of almost a factor 40 (Ref. 40).

By letting the infrared light first pass through a medium with refractive index n before it is dispersed by the grating from inside the medium, the grating works n times more efficient than the traditional version. This trick allows the project to make the grating n times smaller and the total instrument n3 times smaller. SRON, together with TNO, have developed silicon immersed gratings with a refractive index of 3.42. This has yielded a huge, almost forty-fold, volume reduction for the spectrometer. - Immersion means that diffraction takes place inside the medium, in our case silicon. The high refractive index of the silicon medium boosts the resolution and the dispersion. Ultimate control over the groove geometry yields high efficiency and polarization control. Together, these aspects lead to a huge reduction in spectrometer volume. This has opened new avenues for the design of spectrometers operating in the short-wave-infrared wavelength band. Immersed grating technology for space application was initially developed by SRON and TNO for the short-wave-infrared channel of TROPOMI, built under the responsibility of SSTL. 64) 65) 66)

On TROPOMI the SWIR and UVN spectrometers share a common telescope. Figure 61 shows the layout of the SWIR spectrometer. A relayed image of the TROPOMI telescope input pupil is provided at the interface to the SWIR module. A SWIR telescope comprising a silicon germanium doublet forms an image of the ground on a SWIR slit. The slit is manufactured on a silicon prism using photo lithographic methods. A second silicon germanium doublet collimates light from the slit into the IG (Immersed Grating). A five element imaging lens (l1 - l5), comprising silicon and germanium elements forms a spectrally dispersed image of the slit on a MCT detector. An AP (Anamorphic Prism) is included between the immersed grating and the imaging lens and this provides fine alignment adjustment for coregistration requirements.


Figure 61: Optical layout of the TROPOMI SWIR spectrometer including the IG (Immersed Grating), an AP (Anamorphic Prism), camera-objective lenses l1-l5, and detector windows (image credit: SRON, TNO, Ref. 65)

Grating design: Figure 62 shows the IG schematically, with the incoming rays in black and dispersed rays in blue and red. The grating surface shows the characteristic V-grooves (not to scale) that arise from our etching technique; grooves are etched along a specific crystallographic direction of the mono-crystalline silicon grating material. This method results in a controlled blaze angle close to 55°, and smooth groove surfaces. The grating period is 2500 nm corresponding to 400 lines/mm. The flat parts in the plane of the grating, between the grooves are 800 nm wide. The grating is used in order six. The grating facet has a reflective coating. The angle between the grating entrance facet and grating facet is ~60º. The incoming beam is at normal incidence with the entrance facet.


Figure 62: Sketch of the principle of a normal reflection grating (left) and an immersed grating (right), lithographically produced in silicon (image credit: SRON, TNO)

Diffraction grating: The stringent requirements on both the imaging properties and the quality of the spectra translate to a high-tech grating scheme. Hence, a novel diffraction grating scheme was developed at SRON for the SWIR band based on lithographical techniques and anisotropic etching in silicon. In the design, the dispersion and resolution is increased by a factor of 3.4 with respect to conventional gratings; the grating is developed in an immersion, such that diffraction takes place inside the silicon grating material. By lithographic patterning and anisotropic etching of the mono-crystalline silicon the line spacing and blaze angle can be precisely controlled. 67) 68) 69)

The grating has a line spacing of 2.5 µm and is operated in sixth order. We show that an efficiency of 60% is reached on a 50 x 60 mm2 grating surface. The test results with numerical calculations for grating efficiency for both polarizations are compared and were found in good agreement.

This novel approach has a fourfold benefit over conventional mechanical ruling of gratings:

1) First the gratings are lithographically produced and thus benefit from state-of-the art methods, materials and equipment from the semiconductor industry.

2) Secondly, using anisotropic etching along preferred axes in the silicon crystal arbitrary blaze angles can be obtained enabling optimization of the diffraction efficiency.

3) Thirdly, the etched reflecting facets are very smooth suppressing stray light.

4) A fourth and decisive improvement over traditional gratings is that silicon gratings can be illuminated from inside the medium, or “in immersion”, for wavelengths above 1.2 µm for which silicon is transparent.

The resolution of a grating scales with its size, relative to the wavelength. By illuminating the grating from the inside, as illustrated in Figure 62, the wavelength is reduced by the index of refraction of the medium n. Therefore, immersed gratings of high index materials can be made smaller than conventional gratings. The volume gain of the complete spectrometer can be up to n-cubed, implying a huge cost reduction for many applications, in particular for space applications. These advantages make the immersed gratings “enabling technology” for future scientific space missions.

The grating, selected for the TROPOMI SWIR spectrometer, has a line spacing of 2500 nm and a 54.7º blaze angle. The total grating area is 50 mm high and 60 mm in width. An efficiency of 60% is obtained.


Figure 63: Photo of the monolithical immersed grating (left), drawing of the grating prism (right), image credit: SRON, TNO)

Mounting the grating: The immersed grating is a single crystal of silicon with a grating surface etched onto one face. The operational temperature of the optical bench is 200 K. The immersed grating is mounted in a monolithic titanium alloy structure (Figure 64); it is held into the structure by epoxy adhesive (Masterbond EP21TCHT-1). The epoxy adhesive is contained in recesses within invar buttons to control the bond line thickness. Invar is used at the adhesive interface as its CTE (Coefficient of Thermal Expansion) is a good match to that of the silicon of the immersed grating over the required temperature range. This will limit the stress induced birefringence and also ensures that stresses in the adhesive are kept to a minimum. Due to the CTE difference between titanium alloy and the silicon prism, flexure sections are required in the mounting structure to compensate for displacements at operating temperature. The invar buttons are therefore mounted into flexure arms which feature a thin blade section to compensate for displacements across the prism and folded flexure spring sections to compensate for further displacements.


Figure 64: Mounting scheme of the immersed grating (image credit: SRON, TNO)

Legend to Figure 64: The immersed grating prism (purple, on left side image) is mounted in a monolithic titanium alloy structure (grey); it is held into the structure by epoxy adhesive. Invar is used at the adhesive interface. The right side image is a zoom of the mounting structure showing an invar button (brown) mounted in a flexure spring section of the titanium structure.

The manufacturing and test of the IGs was completed in July 2012. The FM and spare gratings are fully compliant with the optomechanical specifications. The wave front error is 0.6 µm rms and can be reduced to 0.3 µm rms with focus correction (Ref. 65).

Detector development: The UVN detector developed for TROPOMI is a back illuminated 1024 x 1024 pixel frame transfer CCD with a pixel pitch of 26 µm. The device is developed by e2V in the UK and has different coatings for the different wavelength bands to allow maximizing the quantum efficiency and minimizing interference structures for the NIR (Ref. 48). 70)

The device is operated in non-inverted mode (NIMO). Despite the higher intrinsic dark current (surface dark current is not suppressed) this has a number of advantages. The first is that it allows using the full pixel full well instead of being limited by the so-called ellipsoid effect present in inverted mode (IMO). This effect is an ellipsoid shaped noisy structure occurring when pixels are filled more than typically 50%. Such a reduction of the pixel full well is not acceptable in view of the already high pixel readout rate of 5 MHz. A further advantage of NIMO is the lower power dissipation. This allows obtaining a lower operating temperature with the same cooling power and thereby repairs much of the increase in dark current. Since the largest contribution to the dark current will come from the surface of the CCD, the contribution from RTS (Random Telegraph Signal) will be much lower. In addition the lower temperature will not only decrease the bulk dark current but also the RTS, both in amplitude and in time scale. At the proposed operating temperature the time scale of any RTS will probably be long enough such that any RTS that may be present can be corrected for.

The device has metal buttresses to have the line transfer time as low as possible to minimize exposure smear. Having metal buttresses means that with today’s technologies, the project is bound to 2 phase parallel clocking. This results in a lower pixel full well, as compared to 4 phase clocking, but this was acceptable in view of the lower development risk.

First test results with a front illuminated breadboard detectors show that most performances are as expected. There is no sign of RTS pixels in the test devices and the dark current is better than anticipated.


Figure 65: Photo of the EM (Engineering Model) of the TROPOMI UVN CCD (image credit: e2V)

For the SWIR range, TROPOMI uses the off-the-shelf Sofradir SATURN detector. This is a HgCdTe-based CMOS detector with 1000 x 256 pixels of 30 µm pitch. The detector is, apart from the number of pixels, similar to the MARS detector which was used successfully in a SWIR spectrograph breadboard.

Operational flexibility: TROPOMI is a very flexible instrument in terms of the readout of its detectors. The most important instrument settings are as follows.

• To avoid saturation in the detectors, there are up to 25 detector readouts during the spatial sampling satellite travel distance. TROPOMI allows users to set the exposure times with step size 1 ms for the UVN and 200 µs for the SWIR and the number of exposures to be co-added into the spatial sampling distance in the flight direction.

• The UVN module CCDs bin a programmable number of pixels to have the wanted sampling in the swath direction, nominally 4 detector pixels are binned to have a 7 km resolution at nadir. Since the sampling measured on ground increases with the swath angle, it is possible to have lower binning factors towards the extreme swath angles.

• The UVN module CCDs allow binning groups of pixel rows below and above the illuminated regions to have stray light estimates and also to bin covered rows on top and the bottom of the CCDs for exposure smear and dark current. Gains for these rows are selected separately to allow fair SNRs (Signal-to-Noise Ratios).

• For each UVN band, it is possible to select the CCD output amplifier gain and the ADC (Analog Digital Converter) gain, separately for each row.

The exposure time settings are to be used to optimize the SNRs for different latitudes and for special cases such as ozone hole conditions. Since the exposure times for all bands have to fit into the same satellite travel distance, it is also possible to adjust the exposure co-addition time and thereby the spatial sampling in the flight direction.

The flexibility in selecting the exposure times introduces in turn a risk of EMC effects in the detector readout. This risk is minimized by including ADCs in the detector proximity electronics, thereby having digital signals in the harness between detector modules and electronics unit. On the other hand, the detectors are read at a frequency of 5 MHz which is high enough to be cautious.

This risk is mitigated by synchronizing the different detectors. This is achieved by implementation of a few simple rules.

• During a frame transfer of any UVN detector, there shall be no readout of any other detector

• During a line transfer (of the storage section into the register) of any UVN detector, there shall be no readout of any other detector.

• Frame transfers, line transfers and readout shall not be interrupted.

It is possible to switch the synchronization off in case the EMC risk does not show up in later hardware phases.

Co-registration: Co-registration means that all wavelengths of a given detector row have the same viewing directions, both in the across-flight and in the flight direction. Coregistration is important because level 1-2 product retrieval algorithms assume all wavelengths in the Level 1 product observe the same air mass. There are a number of hardware effects that impact the coregistration performance.

In the flight direction, the different slits for UV, UVIS/NIR and SWIR lead to a swath dependent offset as shown in Figure 66. The effect for the UV is similar but this is not so critical as this band observes the upper atmosphere with few clouds and scene variation.


Figure 66: UVIS/NIR and SWIR slits projected onto the Earth surface, showing the displacement, increase with swath angle and relative curvature in the flight direction (image credit: SRON, TNO)

Legend to Figure 66: The two bottom curves mark the start and end of the slit projection for the UVIS/NIR and the two upper curves for the SWIR.

In the swath direction and within detector bands, there are the cushion-shaped distortions related to using gratings. These are minimized as much as possible in the optical design but there will be remnants due to manufacturing tolerances. - In the swath direction the most difficult effects are between the detector bands, as these require subdetector pixel accuracies in detector mounting and optical element alignment and the accuracies include orbital effects due to the changing thermal environment.

The most critical coregistration performance is between the NIR and the SWIR and the NIR and the UVIS bands because the NIR band yields the cloud product needed to obtain accurate air mass estimates for the trace gas products from the SWIR and UVIS bands.

Hence, the project downlinks the NIR data at improved spatial sampling and interpolate the NIR data towards the SWIR and the UVIS viewing. In the swath direction, this is possible by reducing the detector pixel binning from 4 to 2 and thereby have a spatial sampling of 3.5 km. In the flight direction, the co-addition time is reduced by a factor 3 and thereby the spatial sampling is about 2.3 km. Given the relevant resolutions, this is sufficient for interpolation. Interpolation is seen as an effective correction of the inter-channel co-registration errors. The accuracy of the knowledge of the pointing difference between channels and its stability form now the most important remaining error. The stability of the co-registration during flight is estimated to be within 10% of a ground pixel which is sufficiently small.

Heterogeneous scenes: Trace gas products from instruments such as TROPOMI are normally derived from reflectance spectra, the ratio of Earth radiance and sun irradiance measurements. The absorption signatures in these spectra can be small, e.g. in the order of a per cent in the case of minor absorbing gases. Therefore, if an accuracy in the product of a few per cent is wanted, then the reflectance spectra need to be free from any distortion on the 10-3 to 10-4 level and with a very accurate wavelength definition in the order of 1/100 of a spectral sampling distance.

There are several mechanisms introducing such distortions or features:

• Sun measurements use a diffuser to convert irradiance into radiance entering the telescope; because of the good spectral and spatial resolution coherence effects will show up as seemingly random spikes or features; the Earth spectra do not use a diffuser and therefore the features are present in the reflectance spectra.

• The polarization scrambler consists of a stack of four birefringent wedges and result in wavelength and viewing angle dependent modulations of the signals; these modulations vary in the Earth measurements with polarization but they are constant in the sun measurements as this is not polarized.

• Varying pixel-to-pixel variation in the detector sensitivity (PRNU) in combination with a varying scene and pixel binning leads to small errors in Earth radiance measurements; sun measurements do not have the effect because the sun is spatially constant via the diffuser.

• Non-uniform illumination of the slit in the across slit direction leads to distortion of the slit function and effectively in a wavelength shift and radiometric effect.

The latter is the heterogeneous scenes effect and is the topic of this section. Figure 67 shows the basics of an OMI-type spectrograph, showing the transfer of flight direction spatial information towards slit illumination and from there onto the spectral direction of the 2D detector.


Figure 67: SNR spectrum of the UVIS spectrograph for end-of-life conditions together with requirement (image credit: SRON, TNO)

The left side of the graph (Figure 68) shows light beams from different directions entering the telescope and being imaged on different edges of the slit. The right size of the graph shows a spectrograph where the beams are projected on different locations of the detector. If the scene is constant, this leads to the desired slit function, or SRF (Spectral Radiance Function), imaged onto the detector. If the illumination of the slit is not uniform, the beams have different radiance content and cause a distortion of the slit function. This distortion causes a radiometric error, and, because the barycenter of the slit function is changed, to a wavelength error.


Figure 68: Basic pushbroom spectrograph showing how flight direction spatial information on the left is transferred to the spectral response function on the right; color separation from the grating is left out of the graph


Figure 69: Staring observation of a heterogeneous scene for the UVIS band at 500 nm; the different curves are for the different exposures where the satellite has moved (image credit: SRON, TNO)

The effect has been modelled where Figure 69 shows the different parts of the scene observed for the different exposures within a co-addition or dwell time. The dwell time was chosen such that it includes a major change in the scene. Following the graphs in Figure 69, an additional convolution was applied to include the motion of the satellite and the curves were converted to wavelength scale to obtain the slit functions or SRFs. This conversion is directly from the fact that a half a ground pixel on Earth (3.5 km) is imaged onto 3 detector pixels and the same 3 detector pixels represent the oversampled spectral resolution.

The slit functions are used to compute from high resolution scene spectra the pixel content for each detector pixel and this allows to compute an error by comparing the result with that of an averaged constant scene. The result is shown in Figure 70 and shows the errors are on a percent level.


Figure 70: Heterogeneous scenes errors as a function of wavelength (image credit: SRON, TNO)

The errors can be seen as a shift in the barycenter’s of the slit functions and can therefore also be expressed as wavelength errors. This is shown in Fig. 12 where the wavelength errors are shows from fitting the Fraunhofer structures in the spectra in a number of predefined wavelength windows. The heterogeneous scene has errors of about 0.015 nm.


Figure 71: Wavelength fit errors from heterogeneous scene as compared to the reference scene; they show up because the differently shaped slit functions have effectively shifted barycenters (image credit: SRON, TNO)

Ground segment:

The ground segment main elements are the FOS (Flight Operations Segment) located at ESOC in Darmstadt and the PDGS (Payload Data-processing Ground Segment) and Mission Planning Facility, located at DLR in Oberpfaffenhofen, both in Germany. Their tasks are the commanding, tracking and monitoring of the spacecraft as well as the acquisition, processing, archiving and dissemination of science data, respectively. The PDGS will, in particular, host the Level 0-1b & Level 2 processing facility which will generate routine Level 0 / 1b and Level 2 data products. The Level 0-1b software is provided by KNMI to be installed in the PDGS. The Level 2 products are a joint procurement by ESA and NSO and is coordinated by KNMI. The Level 2 products are developed by KNMI, SRON, DLR and BIRA. 71) 72)

The envisaged near-real-time dissemination scheme for Level 1b and 2 data products implies that the recorded science telemetry is downlinked at least once per orbit. This will be accomplished by use of high latitude X-band stations in the Svalbard region of Spitzbergen, Norway. A schematic view of the primary elements of the ground segment is given in Figure 72.


Figure 72: Ground segment schematic data flow (image credit: ESA, Ref. 41)

Table 7 lists the level 2 data products of Sentinel 5. With the exception of the CO2, all products are targeted by the Sentinel 5P TROPOMI instrument.

Level-2 data product

Wavelength range (nm)

Ozone vertical profile (O3)


Sulphur dioxide (SO2)




Total ozone (O3)




Formaldehyde (HCHO)


Bromine monoxide (BrO)


Rayleigh scattering (cloud), aerosol absorption




Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)


Glyoxal (CHOCHO)




Cloud (O2-O2)


Water vapor and cloud


Cloud (O2-A band)


Aerosol profile (O2-A band)


Methane (CH4) (&CO2)


Aerosol profile


Carbon monoxide (CO) (&CH4)


Table 7: Sentinel 5 Data Products (Ref. 46)

The DLR German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) in Oberpfaffenhofen developed and integrated the entire payload ground segment, including data reception, processing, archiving and distribution. Operation of the payload ground segment as part of the ESA ground segment also belongs to the remit of the German Remote Sensing Data Center. The data processors that convert the measurement data into geophysical data products were developed by the DLR Remote Sensing Technology Institute, the University of Bremen and the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz as part of a European consortium.

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The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (

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