European Remote-Sensing Satellite

European Remote-Sensing Satellite

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European remote sensing
Remote sensing
Remote sensing is the acquisition of information about an object or phenomenon, without making physical contact with the object. In modern usage, the term generally refers to the use of aerial sensor technologies to detect and classify objects on Earth by means of propagated signals Remote sensing...

 satellite
Satellite
In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object which has been placed into orbit by human endeavour. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as the Moon....

(ERS) was the European Space Agency
European Space Agency
The European Space Agency , established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organisation dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 18 member states...

's first Earth-observing satellite
Earth observation satellite
Earth observation satellites are satellites specifically designed to observe Earth from orbit, similar to reconnaissance satellites but intended for non-military uses such as environmental monitoring, meteorology, map making etc....

. It was launched on July 17, 1991 into a Sun-synchronous polar orbit
Polar orbit
A polar orbit is an orbit in which a satellite passes above or nearly above both poles of the body being orbited on each revolution. It therefore has an inclination of 90 degrees to the equator...

 at a height of 782–785 km.

Instruments


ERS-1 carried an array of earth-observation instruments that gathered information about the Earth (land, water, ice and atmosphere) using a variety of measurement principles. These included:
  • RA (Radar Altimeter) is a single frequency nadir
    Nadir
    The nadir is the direction pointing directly below a particular location; that is, it is one of two vertical directions at a specified location, orthogonal to a horizontal flat surface there. Since the concept of being below is itself somewhat vague, scientists define the nadir in more rigorous...

    -pointing radar
    Radar
    Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

     altimeter
    Altimeter
    An altimeter is an instrument used to measure the altitude of an object above a fixed level. The measurement of altitude is called altimetry, which is related to the term bathymetry, the measurement of depth underwater.-Pressure altimeter:...

     operating in the Ku band
    Ku band
    The Kμ band is a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum in the microwave range of frequencies. This symbol refers to —in other words, the band directly below the K-band...

    .
  • ATSR-1 (Along-Track Scanning Radiometer
    AATSR
    The Advanced Along Track Scanning Radiometer is one of the Announcement of Opportunity instruments on board the European Space Agency 's Envisat satellite....

    ) is a 4 channel infrared
    Infrared
    Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

     radiometer
    Radiometer
    A radiometer is a device for measuring the radiant flux of electromagnetic radiation. Generally, the term radiometer denotes an infrared radiation detector, yet it also includes detectors operating on any electromagnetic wavelength....

     and microwave
    Microwave
    Microwaves, a subset of radio waves, have wavelengths ranging from as long as one meter to as short as one millimeter, or equivalently, with frequencies between 300 MHz and 300 GHz. This broad definition includes both UHF and EHF , and various sources use different boundaries...

     sounder for measuring temperatures at the sea-surface and the top of clouds.
  • SAR (synthetic aperture radar
    Synthetic aperture radar
    Synthetic-aperture radar is a form of radar whose defining characteristic is its use of relative motion between an antenna and its target region to provide distinctive long-term coherent-signal variations that are exploited to obtain finer spatial resolution than is possible with conventional...

    ) operating in C band can detect changes in surface heights with sub-millimeter precision.
  • Wind
    Wind
    Wind is the flow of gases on a large scale. On Earth, wind consists of the bulk movement of air. In outer space, solar wind is the movement of gases or charged particles from the sun through space, while planetary wind is the outgassing of light chemical elements from a planet's atmosphere into space...

     Scatterometer
    Scatterometer
    A radar scatterometer is designed to determine the normalized radar cross section of the surface. Scatterometers operate by transmitting a pulse of microwave energy towards the Earth's surface and measuring the reflected energy. A separate measurement of the noise-only power is made and...

     used to calculate information on wind speed and direction.
  • MWR is a Microwave Radiometer
    Microwave radiometer
    A microwave radiometer is a radiometer that measures energy emitted at sub-millimetre-to-centimetre wavelengths known as microwaves. Their primary application has been onboard spacecraft measuring atmospheric and terrestrial radiation, and they are mostly used for meteorological or oceanographic...

     used in measuring atmospheric water, as well as providing a correction for the atmospheric water for the altimeter.


To accurately determine its orbit, the satellite included the PRARE (Precision Range and Range-Rate Equipment) and a Laser
Laser
A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation...

 Retroreflector
Retroreflector
A retroreflector is a device or surface that reflects light back to its source with a minimum scattering of light. An electromagnetic wave front is reflected back along a vector that is parallel to but opposite in direction from the wave's source. The device or surface's angle of incidence is...

. The PRARE was non-operational since launch. The Retroreflector
Retroreflector
A retroreflector is a device or surface that reflects light back to its source with a minimum scattering of light. An electromagnetic wave front is reflected back along a vector that is parallel to but opposite in direction from the wave's source. The device or surface's angle of incidence is...

 was used for calibrating the Radar
Radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

 Altimeter
Altimeter
An altimeter is an instrument used to measure the altitude of an object above a fixed level. The measurement of altitude is called altimetry, which is related to the term bathymetry, the measurement of depth underwater.-Pressure altimeter:...

 to within 10 cm.

Mission


ERS-1 had various mission phases using 3-day, 35-day and a 336-day repeat cycle. The 336-day mission (Geodetic Mission) allowed for accurate mapping of the Earth's bathymetry
Bathymetry
Bathymetry is the study of underwater depth of lake or ocean floors. In other words, bathymetry is the underwater equivalent to hypsometry. The name comes from Greek βαθύς , "deep", and μέτρον , "measure"...

 and geoid
Geoid
The geoid is that equipotential surface which would coincide exactly with the mean ocean surface of the Earth, if the oceans were in equilibrium, at rest , and extended through the continents . According to C.F...

 over the seas using the Radar Altimeter.

ERS-1 failed on March 10, 2000, far exceeding its expected lifespan.

ERS-2


Its successor, ERS-2, was launched on April 21, 1995, on an Ariane 4
Ariane 4
Ariane 4 was an expendable launch system, designed by the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales and manufactured and marketed by its subsidiary Arianespace. Ariane 4 was justly known as the ‘workhorse’ of the Ariane family. Since its first flight on 15 June 1988 until the last, on 15 February 2003, it...

, from ESA's Guiana Space Centre near Kourou
Kourou
Kourou is a commune in French Guiana, an overseas region and department of France located in South America.Kourou is the location of the Guiana Space Centre, France and ESA's main spaceport.-Geography:...

, French Guiana
French Guiana
French Guiana is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department located on the northern Atlantic coast of South America. It has borders with two nations, Brazil to the east and south, and Suriname to the west...

. Largely identical to ERS-1, it added additional instruments and included improvements to existing instruments including:
  • GOME (Global Ozone
    Ozone
    Ozone , or trioxygen, is a triatomic molecule, consisting of three oxygen atoms. It is an allotrope of oxygen that is much less stable than the diatomic allotrope...

     Monitoring Experiment) is a nadir
    Nadir
    The nadir is the direction pointing directly below a particular location; that is, it is one of two vertical directions at a specified location, orthogonal to a horizontal flat surface there. Since the concept of being below is itself somewhat vague, scientists define the nadir in more rigorous...

     scanning ultraviolet
    Ultraviolet
    Ultraviolet light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays, in the range 10 nm to 400 nm, and energies from 3 eV to 124 eV...

     and visible spectrometer
    Spectrometer
    A spectrometer is an instrument used to measure properties of light over a specific portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, typically used in spectroscopic analysis to identify materials. The variable measured is most often the light's intensity but could also, for instance, be the polarization...

    .
  • ATSR-2 included 3 visible spectrum bands specialized for Chlorophyll
    Chlorophyll
    Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in almost all plants, algae, and cyanobacteria. Its name is derived from the Greek words χλωρος, chloros and φύλλον, phyllon . Chlorophyll is an extremely important biomolecule, critical in photosynthesis, which allows plants to obtain energy from light...

     and Vegetation
    Vegetation
    Vegetation is a general term for the plant life of a region; it refers to the ground cover provided by plants. It is a general term, without specific reference to particular taxa, life forms, structure, spatial extent, or any other specific botanical or geographic characteristics. It is broader...



When ERS-2 was launched, ERS-1 shared the same orbital plane. This allowed a tandem
Tandem
Tandem is an arrangement where a team of machines, animals or people are lined up one behind another, all facing in the same direction....

 mission, with ERS-2 passing the same point on the ground 1 day later than ERS-1. ERS-2 has a repeat cycle of 35 days.

ERS-2 has been operating without gyroscope
Gyroscope
A gyroscope is a device for measuring or maintaining orientation, based on the principles of angular momentum. In essence, a mechanical gyroscope is a spinning wheel or disk whose axle is free to take any orientation...

s since February 2001, resulting in some degradation of the data provided by the instruments. The tape drive aboard failed on June 22, 2003, leaving the instruments operating only within visibility of a ground station. Since the tape drive failure additional ground stations have been brought online to increase the data gathering abilities of the satellite. The Wind Scatterometer and GOME were the only instruments of their kind until the launch of MetOp-A.

The successor to ERS-2 is Envisat
Envisat
Envisat is an Earth-observing satellite. It was launched on 1 March 2002 aboard an Ariane 5 from the Guyana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guyana into a Sun synchronous polar orbit at an altitude of...

containing improved versions of many of the instruments onboard ERS-2; however, its operational life was increased until 2011. Over a series of burns in July, August and September, ERS-2 was finally depleted of all fuel on September 5th 2011. At 13:16:38 the batteries were switched off, leaving the spacecraft in an orbit where it will reentry the Earth's atmosphere and safely disintegrate within 25 years according to international standards.

In the final stages of emptying the fuel tanks, it was estimated that they would be empty after a 40 minute burn on the 2nd of September 2011. However, the spacecraft survived both this manouvre and a second 40 minute burn on the 3rd of September. On the 5th of September a third burn was initiated and the fuel tanks were finally drained.

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