The third in a series of Earth observation satellites was launched by the European Space Agency, ESA on Tuesday, February 16, 2016.

For PML scientists the launch of the Sentinel 3 OLCI sensor is the most significant launch in 15 years as it will replace the previous satellite Envisat/MERIS launched in 2002, later expiring in 2012.  Sentinel 3/OLCI will continue the legacy left by the Envisat/MERIS, which saw many advances in optical remote sensing in complex waters, particularly shallow waters, coasts, estuaries and lakes.

5PML-SentinelSentinel-3 second stage separation, image courtesy of ESA/ATG medialab

The new capability of the Sentinel 3/OLCI will allow PML scientists to develop and maintain ways to assess oceanic changes, as well as help to manage impacts in areas where society meets inland water and marine environments.

Through the data collected, PML scientists will be able to provide information on water types and quality, which can then be used to support interdisciplinary research, environmental management, spatial planning, and sustainable development. The high resolution ocean color imagery provided by Sentinel 3/OLCI (300m) means that the data can be used for observing inland waters like lakes, whilst the number of bands means that the scientists can use more complex algorithms to better monitor these waters. Other satellites launched since 2002 were limited by having a lower resolution, less wavebands or simply not being optimized to measure ocean color.

PML Head of Science for Earth Observation science Steve Groom commented:

“What makes Sentinel 3, and the entire Copernicus program special, is the continuity of coverage it will provide for global maps of phytoplankton chlorophyll-a in the seas and oceans. Up until now, space agencies have typically launched single satellites to gather data, yet once that satellite reaches the end of its life the data stop. Now, over the next 20 years, with Sentinel 3 b, c and d following on from Sentinel-3a, we are almost guaranteed no gaps in the data. The images received from Sentinel 3 are crucial for the work we do at PML both for our research and the services we provide”.

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