The European Space Agency has lifted into space an air-quality monitoring satellite from a launch site in northern Russia.
A Russian-made Rockot launch vehicle carrying the ESA payload lifted off at 5:27 a.m. EDT, or 11:27 p.m. local time, from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on Oct. 13. It will be integrated into a fleet of satellites known as the Sentinels.
The Sentinels are central to Europe’s Copernicus program. Copernicus aims to gather and analyze data and imagery offering insights into the Earth’s changing climate and conditions.
In the U.S., NASA uses commercial contractors such as United Launch Alliance to lift its environment-monitoring satellites.
The launch of the Sentinel-5 Precursor, or Sentinel-5P, came in the first Copernicus mission dedicated to monitoring atmosphere conditions. The satellite will use a Tropomi instrument to map atmospheric trace gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and aerosols.
The first stage separated two min after liftoff; solar panels were deployed after subsequent upper-stage separations and communications with Earth were begun. Testing will continue, and the sat is expected to commence full operations within six months.
“Launching the sixth Sentinel satellite for the Copernicus program is testament to the extensive competence we have here at ESA, from its moment of conception to well into operations,” ESA director general Jan Woerner said. “The Sentinel-5P satellite is now safely in orbit so it is up to our mission control teams to steer this mission into its operational life and maintain it for the next seven years or more.”