Developed in close co-operation between ESA, the European Commission, the Netherlands Space Office, industry, data users and scientist, Sentinel-5 Precursor (Sentinel-5P for short) is a first. There are more sentinels – they are a fleet of satellites designed specifically to deliver data and imagery central to the European Commission’s Copernicus programme. This programme seeks to monitor the Earth’s environment in order to understand and tackle the effects of climate change.

The Sentinel-5P satellite inside the booster rocket bringing it into orbit.

Designed and built by a consortium of 30 companies, led by Airbus Defence, Space UK and Space NL, Sentinel-5P is the first mission dedicated to monitoring our atmosphere. The satellite carries Tropomi, a state-of-the-art spectrometer used to map a multitude of trace gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and aerosols. All of these gases affect the air we breathe, and therefore both our health and our climate. Tropomi will map the global atmosphere every day, using a resolution as high as 7 km by 3.5 km, allowing air pollution over cities to be detected.

Working on Tropomi

Sentinel-5P will contribute to services such as volcanic ash monitoring, to keep aviation safe, and will warn of high levels of the skin damage causing UV radiation. Additionally, the data will be used to improve our knowledge of important processes in the atmosphere related to the climate. For example, it will help scientists study the formation of holes in the ozone layer. Designed to reduce the data gaps that now exist after the Envisat-mission ended and the launch of Sentinel-5. It will also complement GOME-2 on MetOp.

Testing the Rockot rocket

In the future, the plan is for Sentinel-4 (geostationary) and Sentinel-5 (polar-orbit) missions to monitor the composition of the atmosphere for the Copernicus Atmosphere Services. Both missions will be using meteorological satellites operated by Eumetsast. Until both mission are operational, Sentinel-5P will play a key role in monitoring and tracking air pollution.

Sentinel-5P in orbit (rendering)