January 6, 2017


Every 5 days, the Sentinel-2 mission beams back pictures of our planet in 13 spectral bands, enabling high-resolution monitoring of changes in plant cover, land occupancy and the impacts of global warming.

Weighing 1,140 kg, the European Sentinel-2A satellite lifted off from Kourou atop a Vega launcher on 23 June 2015. Its twin Sentinel-2B will join it in the same 786-km orbit in Spring 2017. Together, they will deliver images with a ground swath of 290 km and a resolution of 10 m to 60 m every 5 days, spanning the visible to the short-wave infrared portion of the spectrum.

This imagery serves a broad range of applications from crop and forest growth to land occupancy, farming practices and yields, and coastal monitoring, helping scientists to better understand the mechanisms and impacts of the climate system. It also aids humanitarian organizations and governments to respond to emergencies such as landslides, volcano eruptions, flooding and other natural disasters.

Drawing on the heritage of NASA’s Landsat and CNES’s SPOT programmes, the Sentinel-2 mission is part of the European Union’s Copernicus global environmental monitoring and security programme. The European Space Agency (ESA) has led development of the 2 satellites, their instruments and the ground segment. The spacecraft have been designed and built by a consortium of 60 firms headed by Airbus Defence & Space. Under a cooperation agreement, CNES developed the prototype of the data processing ground segment, defined and prototyped level 1 image processing procedures, and developed an image quality system and a level 2 (cloud detection and atmospheric corrections) image processing demonstrator. CNES makes Sentinel-2 data available free of charge on the Internet via its PEPS Sentinel Product Exploitation Platform, and delivers products corrected for atmospheric effects through the Theia land surfaces data hub.