The Sentinel-1A satellite, launched on April 3, 2014 and fully operational in orbit, has already provided a huge volume of data. This treasure trove of date is transmitted to many different information services to support Global monitoring. The main goals of the Sentinel-1 mission are: mapping of urban areas, observing environmental impact, monitoring risks due to movements in the Earth’s surface, surveillance of the marine environment, maritime security, sea ice monitoring, monitoring of forests and climate change.
In June 2015, some 1,200 radar scenes from the satellite’s wide-swath mode were used to produce a map of the Greenland ice sheet, clearly showing changes in glaciers along the Greenland coast. Since the Greenland ice sheet is considered an “essential climate variable”, helping us predict how the rest of the world will be affected, Sentinel-1A fulfills a critical role in this monitoring task.
On April 29, 2015, a combination of two Sentinel-1A radar scans revealed changes on the ground caused by the tragic earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25: a broad swath of ground near Katmandu rose a full meter, which explains the severe damage to the city.
Sentinel-1A is also helping to map and monitor rice production in Vietnam, since its advanced radar is highly sensitive to changes in waterlogged ground such as rice paddies. In particular, the satellite has shown that the Mekong River Delta – one of the world’s major rice-growing areas – experienced a significant drop in productivity over the past year, illustrating the effect of El Niño on food security.
Sentinel-1A, built buy Thales Alenia Space like Sentinel -1B, is the first of a fleet of spacecraft deployed by Europe’s Copernicus program, probably the most ambitious Earth-observation program for environmental monitoring ever conceived. With the upcoming launch of Sentinel-1B, the first satellite’s "twin", the mapping of surface deformations will be further enhanced.
Photo copyright: © Thales Alenia Space/Paul Ridderhof