Europe has launched its latest Earth observation (EO) satellite, a spacecraft that will help scientists monitor natural disasters and track land use and water pollution around the globe.
Sentinel-2B carries a large camera to image all land surfaces and coastal waters in visible and infrared light.
It joins Sentinel-2A, already in orbit.
The duo will be flown on the same path but 180 degrees apart so that they can provide a complete map of Earth every five days.
The Sentinels constitute the space segment of the EU’s Copernicus environmental monitoring programme.
A suite of sensors are being lofted over the next few years to gather critical information on the state of the planet and to acquire the data needed to inform and enforce EU policies.
Josef Aschbacher, the director of EO at the European Space Agency (ESA), said: “To say they [Sentinel 2A and 2B] are the ‘heartbeat’ is a good way to describe them because they take the images that are most easily understandable.”
The lift-off aboard a Vega rocket occurred at 22:49 GFT on 6 March (02:49 CET, on 7 March), in French Guiana.
Ejection of the satellite happened around an hour later, roughly 775km above the Earth.
Controllers in Darmstadt, Germany, were waiting to pick up a signal and begin early operations.
Bianca Hoersch, ESA’s mission manager for the Sentinel-2 spacecraft, said: “We will slowly acquire the reference orbit (786km altitude) over the next two weeks.
“Then we have the commissioning phase; that takes us to early June. At that point we should be producing lots of data, and after a short ramp-up, around the October timeframe, we should be in full constellation readiness.”