On 7th March 2017 Sentinel-2B was launched. It is the fifth satellite for the EU ‘Copernicus’ earth observation program. Essential components of the satellite’s multi-spectral instrument (MSI) were supplied by the aerospace company Jena Optronik GmbH, based in Thuringia, and provide a new perspective of our earth.
The Copernicus program is coordinated by the European Commission. The member states of the European Space Agency ESA finance and implement the space section. The ‘Sentinel’ satellites will provide earth observation data with a new quality and scope.
“The excellent climate data base, created by the Copernicus program, is the foundation of a new landmark in human history. Climate research has only had access to a limited amount of data so far - e.g. historical temperature records, tree growth, fossils, drill cores from glaciers. A massive, solid, and consistent database will now be provided through the Copernicus program. The challenge will be to continually expand it in a meaningful manner, to imperishably store the data, and have it comprehensively evaluated”, comments Dietmar Ratzsch, President & CEO of Jena-Optronik GmbH.
Airbus is the main contractor for the satellites. Jena-Optronik was contracted by the aerospace company to develop, manufacture and test the video compression unit (VCU) and the multi-spectral filter for the multi-spectral instrument (MSI) of the Sentinel-2B satellite. In addition, the ASTRO APS star sensors from Jena-Optronik are the main sensors of the satellite’s attitude control system guaranteeing its stable positioning of in space. Sentinel-2B is, after the launch of Sentinel-2A in June 2015, the second of a total of four planned Sentinel-2 satellites which, as the successors to Landsat and SPOT, deliver multi-spectral earth observation data.
“This launch was the highlight of the project operation for me so far. After successful commissioning of the components supplied by Jena-Optronik for the satellite attitude control system and the components for the multi-spectral camera, the first imagery was delivered by Sentinel-2B at a high quality standard. They confirm the outstanding operational capabilities of our products”, says Dr. Reinhard Berger, Vice President Products & Programs at Jena-Optronik. “Our contributions to Sentinel-2B are of crucial importance to the performance of the satellite: The optical color filters precisely resolve the various colors of the images and the electronics controls the camera as well as it converts, formats, and compresses the video signal data. Scientists with access to this data are therefore able to apply completely new types of calculations and simulations relating to the condition, the use, and the changes to the land surfaces of the earth. Finally, it is possible to precisely adjust the line of sight of the multi-spectral camera within a few meters using the star sensors from Jena-Optronik.”
One of the greatest challenges when developing and assembling the VCU was adhering to the prescribed narrow tolerances applying to the numerous parallel signal processing channels. The camera electronics process the same volume of data in real time as a 4K television. The design needs to be very reliable and robust in order to operate without failure in the tough environmental conditions in space characterized by large temperature differences, vacuum, and the presence of cosmic radiation.
“Sentinel-2B was yet another step towards completion of the ambitious Copernicus constellation”, says Hans Knut Raue, Head of Sales at Jena-Optronik, in assessing the significance of the satellite. “We have proven our capabilities in this area by mastering both the serial production of sensors for satellite platforms as well as the challenging serial production of components for earth observation instruments. Aside from complying with narrow tolerances relating to the VCU’s parallel signal processing channels for Sentinel-2B, the allowed deviations in the specified operational characteristics relative to the VCU on the previously launched Sentinal-2A were very challenging. This is all the more difficult as the limits of technical feasibility are close to the requirements placed on the components.”
The performance of Jena-Optronik’s team is so highly regarded throughout the entire industrial consortium that Jena-Optronik has been awarded by Airbus with follow-on contracts for the Sentinel-2C and 2D satellites with the same scope of delivery as for the Sentinel-2A and 2B programs. “This trust is an inspiration for us”, says Hans Knut Raue.
"Acquired on 15 March 2017, this subset from the first image from Sentinel-2B features the southern Italian port city of Brindisi – appropriately the same word for the ‘toast’ ritual in Italian."
ESA's press release on the Pictures con be read here.
Please find the press release on the Launch from Airbus Defence and Space here.