Minimize Copernicus: Sentinel-1

Copernicus: Sentinel-1 — The SAR Imaging Constellation for Land and Ocean Services

Spacecraft     Launch    Mission Status     Sensor Complement    Ground Segment    References

Sentinel-1 is the European Radar Observatory, representing the first new space component of the GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) satellite family, designed and developed by ESA and funded by the EC (European Commission). The Copernicus missions (Sentinel-1, -2, and -3) represent the EU contribution to GEOSS (Global Earth Observation System of Systems). Sentinel-1 is composed of a constellation of two satellites, Sentinel-1A and Sentinel-1B, sharing the same orbital plane with a 180° orbital phasing difference. The mission provides an independent operational capability for continuous radar mapping of the Earth with enhanced revisit frequency, coverage, timeliness and reliability for operational services and applications requiring long time series.

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 1)

The overall objective of the Sentinel-1 mission is to provide continuity of C-band SAR operational applications and services in Europe. Special emphasis is placed on services identified in ESA's GSE (GMES Service Element) program. Additional inputs come from on-going GMES projects funded by ESA, the EU, and ESA/EU member states. The Sentinel-1 mission is expected to enable the development of new applications and meet the evolving needs of GMES, such as in the area of climate change and associated monitoring. 2) 3) 4)

The Sentinel-1 mission represents a completely new approach to SAR mission design by ESA in direct response to the operational needs for SAR data expressed under the EU-ESA GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) program. The mission ensures continuity of C-band SAR data to applications and builds on ESA's heritage and experience with the ERS and Envisat SAR instruments, notably in maintaining key instrument characteristics such as stability and accurate well-calibrated data products.

The key mission parameters are revisit time, coverage, timeliness combined with frequency band, polarization, resolution and other image quality parameters. Short revisit time demands for an appropriate orbit selection and large swath widths.

The baseline mission concept under development is a two-satellite constellation, with four nominal operational modes on each spacecraft designed for maximum compliance with user requirements. 5) 6) 7) 8) 9) 10)

• Orbit: Sun-synchronous near-polar orbit, repeat cycle of 12 days, cycle length of 175 days

• Operational modes:

- Stripmap mode (SM): 80 km swath, 5 m x 5 m resolution, single-look

- Interferometric Wide Swath mode (IWS): 240 km swath, 5 m x 20 m resolution, single-look

- Extra Wide Swath mode (EWS): 400 km swath, single-look

- Interferometric Wide Swath mode (IWS): 240 km swath, 25 m x 80 m resolution, 3-looks

- Wave mode (WM): 20 km x 20 km, 20 m x 5 m resolution, single-look

• Polarization: Dual polarization for all modes VV+VH or HH+HV

• Operations:

- Consistent, reliable and conflict free mission operations

- Near real-time delivery of data within 3 hours (worst case) with 1 hour as goal

- Data delivery from archive within 24 hours

• Sensitivity: NESZ (Noise Equivalent Sigma Zero), σo = -25 dB

• Radiometry:

- Stability = 0.5 dB

- Accuracy = 1.0 dB

• Ambiguity ratio: DTAR (Distributed Target Ambiguity Ratio) = -25 dB

In April 2007, ESA selected TAS-I (Thales Alenia Space Italia) as prime contractor for the Sentinel-1 spacecraft (overall satellite design & integration at system and subsystem level, including the design of the SAR antenna's transmit/receive modules). ESA awarded the contract to TAS-I on June 18, 2007 at the Paris International Air Show. EADS Astrium GmbH of Friedrichshafen, was in turn awarded a contract by TAS-I to build the radar imaging payload for Sentinel-1, including the central radar electronics subsystem developed by Astrium UK. The objective of Sentinel-1 is to assure C-band SAR data continuity for the user community currently provided by Envisat and ERS-2. 11)

Three priorities (fast-track services) for the mission have been identified by user consultation working groups of the European Union: Marine Core Services, Land Monitoring and Emergency Services. These cover applications such as: 12)

• Monitoring sea ice zones and the arctic environment

• Surveillance of marine environment

• Monitoring land surface motion risks

• Mapping of land surfaces: forest, water and soil, agriculture

• Mapping in support of humanitarian aid in crisis situations.

Unlike its more experimental predecessors ERS-1, ERS-2 and Envisat that supply data on a best effort basis, operational satellites like Sentinel-1 are required to satisfy user requirements and to supply information in a reliable fashion with the data provider accepting legal responsibility for the delivery of information.

In March 2010, ESA and TAS-I signed a contract to build the second Sentinel-1 (Sentinel-1B) and Sentinel-3 (Sentinel-3B) satellites, marking another significant step in the Copernicus program. 13)

As part of the Copernicus space component, the Sentinel-1 (S1) mission is implemented through a constellation of two satellites (A and B units) each carrying an imaging C-band SAR instrument (5.405 GHz) providing data continuity of ERS and Envisat SAR types of mission. Each Sentinel-1 satellite is designed for an operations lifetime of 7 years with consumables for 12 years. The S-1 satellites will fly in a near polar, sun-synchronized (dawn-dusk) orbit at 693 km altitude. 14)

The Sentinel-1 mission, including both S-1A and S-1B satellites, is specifically designed to acquire systematically and provide routinely data and information products to Copernicus Ocean, Land and Emergency as well as to national user services. These services focus on operational applications such as the observation of the marine environment, including oil spill detection and Arctic/Antarctic sea-ice monitoring, the surveillance of maritime transport zones (e.g. European and North Atlantic zones), as well as the mapping of land surfaces including vegetation cover (e.g. forest), and mapping in support of crisis situations such as natural disasters (e.g. flooding and earthquakes) and humanitarian aid.

In addition, the 12-day repeat orbit cycle of each Sentinel-1 satellite along with small orbital baselines will enable SAR interferometry (InSAR) coherent change detection applications such as the monitoring of surface deformations (e.g. subsidence due to permafrost melt) and cryosphere dynamics (e.g. glacier flow).


Figure 1: Artist's view of the deployed Sentinel-1 spacecraft (image credit: ESA, TAS-I)


The spacecraft is based on the PRIMA (Piattaforma Italiana Multi Applicativa) bus of TAS-I, of COSMO-SkyMed and RADARSAT-2 heritage, with a mission-specific payload module. Attitude stabilization: 3-axis, attitude accuracy = 0.01º (each axis), orbital knowledge = 10 m (each axis, 3σ using GPS).

The spacecraft structure provides the accommodation for all platform and payload units. A box type structure has been adopted using external aluminum sandwich material, with a central structure in CFRP (Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic). A modular approach has been taken whereby the payload is mounted to a dedicated part of the structure, allowing separate integration & test of the payload before integration to the main part of the structure carrying the platform units. This has many advantages for the overall AIT (Assembly, Integration and Test) process. 15) 16) 17) 18) 19) 20)

The PRIMA platform comprises three main modules, which are structurally and functionally decoupled to allow for a parallel module integration and testing up to the satellite final integration. The modules are: 21)

1) SVM (Service Module), carrying all the bus units apart from the propulsion ones

2) PPM (Propulsion Module), carrying all the propulsion items connected by tubing and connectors

3) PLM (Payload Module), carrying all the payload equipment including the SAR Instrument antenna.


Figure 2: 3D exploded view of the Sentinel-1 platform (image credit: TAS-I)

TCS (Thermal Control Subsystem): The TCS provides control of the thermal characteristics and environment of the Satellite units throughout all phases of the mission. In general the TCS is passive, with the control provided by means of standard techniques such as heat pipes, radiators and MLI (Multi-Layered Insulation). Survival heaters are provided to prevent units becoming too cold during non-operative phases.

EPS (Electric Power Subsystem): The EPS uses two solar array wings for power generation. Each wing consists of 5 sandwich panels using GaAs triple junction solar cells. The average onboard power is 4.8 kW (EOL), the Li-ion battery has a capacity of 324 Ah. The PCDU (Power Control and Distribution Unit) is designed to provide adequate grounding, bonding & protection for the overall electrical system (e.g. by use of fuses) and must also be integrated into the satellite FDIR concept to ensure that adequate power resources and management are available in the event of on-board failures. Li-Ion battery technology has been selected for the batteries in view of the large benefits offered in terms of mass and energy efficiency.

The spacecraft dimensions in stowed configuration are: 3.4m x 1.3 m x 1.3 m. The Sentinel-1 spacecraft has a launch mass of ~2,200 kg, the design life is 7.25 years (consumables for up to 12 years). 22) 23)

Since the B2 Phase of Sentinel-1, a commonality approach with Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 was introduced and deeply investigated, to optimize and minimize as much as possible new developments, HW procurement and operations costs. Besides the differences among payload instruments and their relative required performances, each of these three satellites have its own orbital parameters, as well its own specific requirements. 24) 25)





Launch date

April 03, 2014 of S1-A
April 22, 2016 of S1-B

June 23, 2015 of S2-A
Expected in 2016 of S2-B

2016 of S3-A
Expected in 2017 of S3-B

Orbit type

SSO (Sun-synchronous Orbit) 12 day repeat cycle LTAN = 18:00 hours

SSO 10 day repeat cycle LTDN = 10:30 hours

SSO 27 day repeat cycle LTDN = 10:00 hours

Orbital altitude

693 km

786 km

814.5 km

Sensor complement

C-SAR (C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar)

MSI (Multi Spectral Instrument)

SRAL (Sentinel-3 Radar Altimeter) MWR (MicroWave Radiometer) OLCI (Ocean and Land Color Instrument) SLSTR (Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer)

Spacecraft mass Spacecraft size Spacecraft power

2300 kg 3.4 m x 1.3 m x 1.3 m 4.8 kW (EOL)

1140 kg 3.0 m x 1.7 m x 2.2 m 1.7 kW (EOL)

1250 kg 3.9 m x 2.2 m x 2.2 m 2.05 kW (EOL)

Downlink X-band data rate

520 Mbit/s

520 Mbit/s

520 Mbit/s

TT&C S-band

64 kbit/s uplink 128 kbit/s or 2 Mbit/s downlink

64 kbit/s uplink 128 kbit/s or 2 Mbit/s downlink

64 kbit/s uplink 128 kbit/s or 2 Mbit/s downlink

Science data storage

1.4 Tbit (EOL)

2 Tbit (EOL)

300 Gbit (EOL)

Required data quality

BER (Bit Error Rate): < 10-9

FER (Frame Error Rate): < 10-8

FER (Frame Error Rate): < 10-7

Operational autonomy

8 days

14 days

27 days

Prime contractor

TAS-I (Thales Alenia Space-Italy)

EADS Astrium GmbH, Germany

TAS-F (Thales Alenia Space-France)

Baseline launcher

Soyuz (Kourou)

Vega (Kourou)

Rockot vehicle of Eurockot Launch Services

Table 2: List of some Sentinel-1, -2, -3 characteristics and key requirements impacting on end-to-end performance 26)

The Sentinel-1 spacecraft design is characterized by a single C-band SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) instrument with selectable dual polarization, a deployable solar array, large on-board science data storage, a very high X-band downlink rate, and stringent requirements on attitude accuracy and data-take timing. In addition, the spacecraft will embark the LCT (Laser Communication Terminal) unit allowing downlink of recorded data via the EDRS (European Data Relay Satellite). 27) 28)

Spacecraft stabilization

3-axis stabilized

Attitude accuracy, knowledge

≤ 0.01º for each axis, < 0.003º for each axis

Nominal flight attitude, attitude profile

Right side looking geometry, geocentric and geodetic

Orbit knowledge

10 m (each axis, 3 sigma) using GPS (dual frequency receiver)

Operative autonomy of spacecraft

96 hours

Spacecraft availability


Spacecraft structure

Box of aluminum sandwich panels + CFRP central structure

Spacecraft body dimensions

3.4 m x 1.3 m x 1.3 m

Spacecraft envelope dimensions

3.9 m x 2.6 m x 2.5 m

Spacecraft launch mass

2157 kg (inclusive 154 kg of monopropellant fuel)

Spacecraft design life

7.25 years (consumables for 12 years)

EPS (Electric Power Subsystem)

4800 W average (End-of-Life), GaAs triple junction solar cells, 2 solar array wings, each wing of 5 sandwich panels

Battery (for eclipse operation) Battery assembly mass

Li-ion technology, capacity = 324 Ah, max discharge power ≥ 1950 W ≤ 130 kg

Onboard science data storage capacity

1410 Gbit (End-of-Life)

S-band TT&C data rates

4 kbit/s TC (telecommand); 16/128/512 kbit/s TM (programmable)

X-band science data telemetry rate

600 Mbit/s

Propulsion subsystem (orbit maintenance)

Monopropellant hydrazine system, 14 thrusters, 6 (orbit control)+8 (attitude)

Thermal control

Mainly passive, standard techniques

Table 3: Main parameters of the Sentinel-1 spacecraft

AVS (Avionics Subsystem): The AVS performs both Data Handling & Attitude/Orbit Control functions. This is realized through the concept of an integrated control system that performs the control of the platform and payload. The AVS performs all data management & storage functions for the satellite, including TM/TC reception and generation, subsystem & unit monitoring, autonomous switching actions and synchronization. The AVS includes the AOCS processing and the interfaces to the AOCS sensors Star trackers, fine sun sensors, and fine gyroscope and actuators, 4 reaction wheels, 3 torque rods, 14 thrusters, 2 solar array drive mechanism. 29)

The AOCS comprises all means to perform transfer- and on-orbit control maneuvers and to control all necessary satellite attitude and antenna pointing states during all mission phases, starting at separation from the launcher until de-orbiting of the satellite at end of life. This includes the attitude steering of the LEO satellite to provide both yaw and roll steering capability. At present, a dedicated precise orbit predictor is implemented within the AOCS, in addition to making use of the data uploaded to the payload by the GPS constellation. The AOCS (Attitude and Orbit Control Subsystem) is able to perform some functions autonomously and it is supported by a very reliable FDIR scheme (Ref. 15). Telecommand data will be received from the TT&C subsystem and will be decoded and deformatted in the AVS.

AOCS consists of the following sensors and actuators: fine sun sensors, magnetometers, gyroscopes, star trackers, GPS receivers, magnetic torquers, a reaction wheels assembly and a monopropellant (hydrazine) propulsion system. The propulsion system has 3 pairs of 1 N orbit control thrusters and 4 pairs of reaction control thrusters for attitude correction. Every pair is made up of a prime and a redundant component. The attitude control thrusters are fired when the spacecraft enters RDM (Rate Damping Mode) after separation, damping any residual rotation left by the launcher upper stage and achieving a spacecraft pitch rotation of -8 times the orbital period. In the subsequent AOCS mode, called SHM (Safe Hold Mode), magnetotorquers and reaction wheels maintain the attitude and reduce the pitch rotation rate to twice the orbital period.

The periodic behavior of the Earth's magnetic field in a polar orbit and the polarization of the angular momentum with the loading of the reaction wheels allow the magnetotorquers to maintain this pitch rate while aligning the spacecraft –Y axis with the orbit normal, which in a dusk-dawn orbit coincides with the direction to the Sun (Figure 3). When the appendages deployment commences, the effect of the gravity gradient torque dominates over the magnetic torque, resulting in the alignment of the S/C X axis (appendages axis) with the nadir direction, maintaining thus a pitch rate equal to the orbital period. Upon ground telecommand, a transition into the NPM (Normal Pointing Mode) occurs, where the spacecraft performs a fine attitude control based on the use of reaction wheels in close loop with star trackers, gyroscopes and GPS, and magnetotorquers for wheel unloading (Ref. 20).


Figure 3: Sentinel-1A stowed representation (in RDM and SHM). +X S/C axis points towards the flight direction. S/C Y axis is aligned with the Sun direction. Solar Array –Y illuminated when stowed (image credit: ESA, Ref. 20)


Figure 4: Architecture of the avionics subsystem (image credit: TAS-I)


Table 4: Sentinel-1 attitude steering modes (Ref. 165)


Figure 5: Spacecraft power generation and distribution (image credit: TAS-I)

PDHT (Payload Data Handling & Transmission) subsystem (Ref. 24):

The commonality process is driving the spacecraft design with the objective to satisfy the needs of three different missions within the same product. This involves several Sentinels subsystems: in particular, TAS-I was selected to coordinate the common design of two assemblies: 30)

• TXA (Telemetry X-band transmission Assembly) 31)

• XBAA (X-Band Antenna Assembly)

The objective of the PDHT subsystem is to provide the services of data acquisition, storage and transmission to the ground in X-band. After having acquired observation data from the DSHA (Data Storage and Handling Assembly), the TXA executes encoding, modulation, up-conversion, amplification and filtering; the X-band signal provided at the TXA output is then transmitted by an isoflux, wide coverage antenna, included in the XBAA.

To summarize, the performance requirements on TXA specification took into account the different needs of the Sentinels, allowing a fully recurrent units approach: beside a specific TXA layout due to accommodation needs, the modulator, TWTA, and RF filter are exactly the same for the three Sentinels.

After the selection of the TXA & XBAA suppliers (TAS-España and TAS-I IUEL respectively), an agreement was reached between ESA and the Sentinel prime contractors on the way to handle the common design and procurement for TXA and XBAA.

Besides strong efforts to manage different needs coming from different missions, the commonality activities performed in the frame of Copernicus Sentinels enable an effective optimization of costs and development time for those subsystems selected for a common design.

To provide flexibility in the downlink operation, the PDHT is designed with two X-band independent links. The PDHT provides an overall input/output throughput of about 1950 Mbit/s, with a payload input data rate of 2 x 640 Mbit/s (multi-polarization acquisition) or 1 x 1280 Mbit/s (single-polarization acquisition) and a transmitted symbol rate of 2 x 112 Msample/s. The data storage capacity is > 1410 Gbit at EOL.

The provided antenna isoflux coverage zone is about ±64º with respect to nadir to allow link establishment with the ground starting from the ground antenna elevation angle of 5º above the horizon.


Figure 6: The PDHT (Payload Data Handling & Transmission) subsystem (image credit: TAS-I)

Legend of Figure 6:

• DSHA (Data Storage & Handling Assembly)

• TXA (Telemetry X-band transmission Assembly)

• XBAA (X-band Antenna Assembly)

Mass memory capacity of SAR data (EOL)

> 1400 Gbit (SD-RAM based cubes)

Mass memory capacity of HK/GNSS/POD data (EOL)

32 Gbit

PDHT overall throughput

1950 Mbit/s


AES (Advanced Encryption Standard)


RS (255,223)

Information data rate (on each link)

300 Mbit/s

Bandwidth (on each link, without baseband shaping)

280 MHz

Modulation scheme


Frequency carrier

8180 MHz

EIRP (on each channel)

> 18.45 dBW

Antenna gain (at 4.5º w.r.t. boresight)

> 20 dB



Antenna pointing mechanism speed


Maximum power consumption (10% of contingency)

450 W

Table 5: Main performance characteristics of the PDHT

The TXA architecture provides two redundant X-band channels with the same output power (16 dBW) and useful data rate (260 Mbit/s). Cold redundancy is implemented at channel level. The main elements of the assembly are:

- X-band modulators, developed by TAS-F, are fully compliant with ECSS and modulation standard

- TWTA (Traveling Wave Tube Amplifiers), provided by TAS-B (ETCA), deliver up to 60 W RF power

- OMUX (Optical Multiplexer), developed by TAS-F, filters and combines both channels and provides out of band rejection.

To achieve good spectral confinement and especially to ensure that the emission levels in the adjacent deep space band (8400 to 8450 MHz) are respected, both baseband filtering with a roll-off of 0.35 (0.35-SRRC) and filtering techniques have been applied. In addition, 6-pole channel band pass filters have been implemented in the OMUX. The 6-pole solution provides two main advantages in front of other less selective solutions, such as 4-pole:

- It filters our more efficiently the regrowth of baseband filtered 8PSK carrier due to the gain nonlinearity of the TWTA, thus allowing for a better overall DC efficiency

- It is compatible with data rates up to 300 Mbit/s per channel by adjusting the frequency plan (increase of frequency spacing between channels).


Figure 7: Architecture of the TXA (image credit: TAS)




Frequency plan

F1 = 8095 MHz, F2 = 8260 MHz


Occupied bandwidth

< 295 -2.1/+1.8 MHz for 112 MS/s

< 130 MHz per channel

Modulation scheme



Inner coding

TCM 5/6 encoding rate


Downlink useful data rate

280 Mbit/s per channel at modulator input

260 Mbit/s channel at RS decoder output

RF losses

< 1.1 dB

Between TWTA output and TXA output I/F

RF output power level

> 15.3 dBW per channel

At OMUX output flange

Transmission technological degradation (at FER <10-7)

< 1.4 dB

Both channels active

Power consumption, dissipation

< 280 W, < 195 W

Both channels active

Mass of device

< 24.7 kg

Panel excluded

Table 6: Summary of the key performances of the Sentinel TXA

PRP (Propulsion Subsystem): The PRP is based on 14 RCTs (Reaction Control Thrusters) located in 4 different sides of the spacecraft, provides the means to make orbit corrections to maintain the requested tight orbit control throughout the mission. Initially, corrections are required to reach the final orbit position after separation from the launcher. During the mission, some infrequent corrections to the orbit are necessary to maintain the requirements upon the relative and absolute positioning of individual satellite. The thrusters located on the –Z side of the satellite are specifically dedicated to attitude control during the safe mode.


Figure 8: Sentinel-1 satellite block diagram (TAS-I, ESA, Ref. 15)


Figure 9: Stowed satellite views (image credit: TAS-I)

RF communications: Onboard source data storage volume of 900 Gbit (EOL). TT&C communications in S-band at 4 kbit/s in uplink and 16, 128, or 512 kbit/s in downlink (programmable). Payload downlink in X-band at a data rate of 2 x 260 Mbit/s.

The Copernicus Sentinel spacecraft are the first ESA Earth Observation spacecraft to implement communications security on the command link. It has been decided to secure the spacecraft from unauthorised command access by adding a security trailer to the command segments which are sent to the spacecraft. The trailer is composed of a Logical Authentication Counter and a Message Authentication Code. The latter is obtained by performing cryptographic encryption of the hash value of the command segment and the Logical Authentication Counter. Only parties in possession of the right key can perform this operation in a way that the command segment is accepted by the spacecraft. The concept applies to all Copernicus Sentinel spacecraft. 32)

Science data compression: Currently, the most promising solution seems to be the FDBAQ (Flexible Dynamic Block Adaptive Quantization) approach as proposed by ESA; 3 output bits would be sufficient for most of "typical" acquisitions over various targets, while few high reflectivity scenes would need 4 bits, making the expected average output bit rate little higher then 3 bits, thus lower then the estimated 3.7 bits for the ECBAQ (Entropy-Constrained Block Adaptive Quantization) compression. 33) 34) 35) 36)

Data delivery: Sentinel-1 will provide a high level of service reliability with near-realtime delivery of data within 1 hour after reception by the ground station, and with data delivery from archive within 24 hours.

OCP (Optical Communication Payload): In parallel to the RF communications, an optical LEO-GEO communications link using the LCT (Laser Communication Terminal) of Tesat-Spacecom (Backnang, Germany) will be provided on the Sentinel spacecraft. The LCT is based on a heritage design (TerraSAR-X) with a transmit power of 2.2 W and a telescope of 135 mm aperture to meet the requirement of the larger link distance. The GEO LCT will be accommodated on AlphaSat of ESA/industry (launch 2012) and later on the EDRS (European Data Relay Satellite) system of ESA. The GEO relay consists of an optical 2.8 Gbit/s (1.8 Gbit/s user data) communication link from the LEO to the GEO satellite and of a 600 Mbit/s Ka-band communication link from the GEO satellite to the ground. 37)

Since the Ka-band downlink is the bottleneck for the whole GEO relay system, an optical ground station for a 5.625 Gbit/s LEO-to-ground and a 2.8 Gbit/s GEO-to-ground communication link is under development.


1st Generation

2nd Generation

3rd Generation

Link type






Sentinel 1 & 2, AlphaSat, ERDS

Euro Hawk, Global Hawk


2-5 years

15 years

Mission depending

Data rate

5.625 Gbit/s

1.800 Gbit/s

1.800 - 5.625 Gbit/s


1000 - 5100 km

< 45,000 km

1000 - 45,000 km

Target BER

1 x 10-8

1 x 10-8

Better than 1 x 10-8

Tx power

0.7 W

2.2-5.0 W

< 5 W

Telescope diameter

125 mm

135 mm

< 125 mm

Instrument mass

~33 kg

~53 kg

< 45 kg

Power consumption

~ 120 W

~160 W

120 - 180 W

Instrument volume

~ 0.5 m x 0.5 m x 0.6 m

~ 0.6 m x 0.6 m x 0.74 m

3-box design (TBD)

Technology Readiness Level




Table 7: Technical data of the LCT generations 38)

Ground segment: Spacecraft operations is provided by ESOC, Darmstadt, while the payload data processing and archiving functions (including the planning for SAR data acquisitions) are provided by ESRIN, Frascati. Options are being provided to permit some functions to be outscored to other operating entities.


Figure 10: Isometric views of the deployed satellite (image credit: TAS-I)


Figure 11: SAR antenna deployment test supported by zero gravity deployment device (solar array in stowed position), image credit: TAS-I, (Ref. 21)

Figure 12 shows the fully integrated Sentinel-1A spacecraft with the SAR antenna and the solar array wings in stowed position. The figure shows the Sentinel-1 spacecraft already mounted on the shaker and ready for sine vibration testing after it has successfully passed the Mass Properties measurements (namely center of mass and inertia moments). Successful completion of vibration and acoustic testing has been followed by the deployment tests of both the SAR antenna and the solar array. Each solar array is tied down on four hold down points by dedicated Kevlar cables. Wing deployment is purely passive, driven by springs, and actuated upon activation of specific thermal knives devices. The time to complete deployment of one wing lasts about 3.5 minutes since the last cable cut. In the end position, the solar array panels are mechanically latched.


Figure 12: Photo of the Sentinel-1A spacecraft during functional tests in Cannes, France (image credit: TAS) 39)

• Prior to shipment to the launch site in late February 2014, the Sentinel-1 spacecraft has spent the last couple of months at Thales Alenia Space in Cannes, France, being put through a last set of stringent tests. This included suspending the satellite from a structure to simulate weightlessness and carefully unfolding the two 10 m-long solar wings and the 12 m-long radar antenna. 40)

• The first satellite dedicated to Europe's Copernicus environmental monitoring program arrived at Cayenne in French Guiana on 24 February 2014. Sentinel-1A is scheduled to be launched from Europe's spaceport in Kourou on 3 April. By delivering timely information for numerous operational services, from monitoring ice in polar oceans to tracking land subsidence, Sentinel-1 is set to play a vital role in the largest civil Earth observation programme ever conceived. 41)


Figure 13: The Sentinel-1A radar satellite has arrived at Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana to be prepared over the coming weeks for launch in April (image credit: ESA,M. Shafiq) 42)


Launch of S-1A: The Sentinel-1A spacecraft was launched on April 3, 2014 (21:02 UTC) on a Soyuz-STB Fregat vehicle from Kourou, French Guiana (the launch is designated as VS07 by the launch provider Arianespace). After a 617 second burn, the Fregat upper stage delivered Sentinel-1A into a Sun-synchronous orbit at 693 km altitude. The satellite separated from the upper stage 23 min 24 sec after liftoff. 43)


Launch of S-1B: The Sentinel-1B spacecraft, a twin sister of Sentinel-1A, was launched on April 25, 2016 (21:02:13 GMT) into the same orbital plane of Sentinel-1A (phased by 180º). The launcher was a Soyuz-STA/Fregat vehicle (VS 14) of Arianespace and the launch site was Kourou. 44) 45)

The contract between ESA and Arianespace to launch the Sentinel-1B satellite was signed on July 17, 2014 by ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programs, Volker Liebig, and CEO of Arianespace, Stéphane Israël, at ESA headquarters in Paris, France. As part of the Copernicus program, Sentinel-1B will round out the initial capacity offered by Sentinel-1A to offer a comprehensive response to the need for environmental and security monitoring via spaceborne radar systems. 46) 47) 48)

On March 22, 2016, the Sentinel-1B satellite has arrived in French Guiana to be prepared for liftoff on 22 April. 49)

Secondary payloads of Sentinel-1B: 50)

• MicroSCOPE, a minisatellite (303 kg) of CNES (French Space Agency) which will test the universality of free fall (equivalence principle for inertial and gravitational mass as stated by Albert Einstein).

• AAUSAT4, a 1U CubeSat of the University of Aalborg, Denmark to demonstrate an AIS (Automatic Identification System), identifying and locating ships sailing offshore in coastal regions.

• e-st@r-II (Educational SaTellite @ politecnico di toRino-II), a 1U CubeSat from the Polytechnic of Turin, Italy.

• OUFTI-1 (Orbital Utility for Telecommunication Innovation), a 1U CubeSat of the University of Liège, Belgium, a demonstrator for the D-STAR communications protocol.

Tyvak International installed the three CubeSats in the orbital deployer. The three CubeSats are part of ESA's FYS (Fly Your Satellite) student program.


Orbit: Sun-synchronous near-circular dawn-dusk orbit, altitude = 693 km, inclination = 98.18º, orbital period = 98.6 minutes, ground track repeat cycle = 12 days (175 orbits/cycle). An exact repeat cycle is needed for InSAR (Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar) support. LTAN (Local Time on Ascending Node) = 18:00 hours.

Orbital tube: A stringent orbit control is required to the Sentinel-1 system. Satellites' position along the orbit needs to be very accurate, in terms of both accuracy and knowledge, together with pointing and timing/synchronization between interferometric pairs. Orbit positioning control for Sentinel-1 is defined by way of an orbital Earth fixed "tube" 50 m (rms) wide in radius around a nominal operational path (Figure 14). The satellite is kept inside such a tube for most of its operational lifetime Ref. 15). 51)

One of the challenges of the Sentinel-1 orbit control strategy is the translation of a statistical tube definition in a deterministic control strategy practically functional to the ESOC (European Space Operations Center) operations.


Figure 14: Schematic view of the orbital tube (image credit: ESA, TAS, Ref. 15) 52)

The second obvious challenge is the very stringent tube diameter which forces the application of frequent and intense maneuvers nevertheless still compatible with S/C request for consumables of up to a 12 years lifetime.

A satellite control strategy has been specifically developed and consists in applying a strict cross-track dead-band control in the most Northern Point and in the ascending node crossing. Controlling the orbit at these 2 latitudes, the satellite is shown to remain in the tube, within the rms (root mean square) criteria, for all other latitudes.


Figure 15: Orbital tube section (image credit: ESA, TAS, Ref. 15)

Orbit knowledge accuracy (< 3 m rms in each axis) in realtime for autonomous operations is not considered as demanding as the on-ground postprocessing requirements (< 5 cm 3D rms) for the detection of (slow) land movements and deformations through the differential interferometry technique. The latter is almost as demanding as for Sentinel-3 and requires dual-frequency receivers. 53)

As both satellites, Sentinel-1A and Sentinel-1B, will fly in the in the same orbital plane with 180º phased in orbit, and each having a 12-day repeat orbit cycle, it will facilitate the formation of SAR interferometry (InSAR) image pairs (i.e., interferograms) having time intervals of 6 days. This, along with the fact that the orbital deviation of each Sentinel-1 satellite will be maintained within a tube of ±50 m radius (rms) will enable the generation of geographically comprehensive maps of surface change such as for measuring ice velocity in the Polar regions, as well as monitoring geohazard related surface deformation caused by tectonic processes, volcanic activities, landslides, and subsidence (Ref. 187).


Figure 16: The main Sentinel-1 mode will allow complete coverage of Earth in six days when operational with the two Sentinel-1 satellites are in orbit simultaneously (image credit: ESA/ATG medialab) 54)