After more than seven years in space - and despite the satellite still being in excellent condition - ESA's PROBA-V mission ended operations on 30 June 2020. But the vegetation mission continues in a new experimental phase that began on 1 July.
The decision to end operations was due to factors that began this summer, which affect the satellite and its observations. The Solar Zenith Angle has increased and resulted in a consequent change of equator crossing time due to the orbital drift of the satellite. This has become significant and impacted trend analysis, the consistency of the long-term archive, and the global coverage at high altitude will be substantially reduced.
The new experimental phase aims to continue during the restrictions these factors will impose on the satellite, without the demands nominal operations would place on the mission. The phase involves a reduced number of acquisition passes per day and will focus the satellite on acquiring 100 m data over Africa and Europe. During this phase, PROBA-V will also conduct daily moon sensing, and yaw manoeuvres will be performed in order to test super resolution, which is a method for enhancing the accuracy of imagery by combining lower resolution images the satellite acquires over the same location.
The experimental phase is foreseen to end in October 2021, when two out of the three on-board cameras will no longer receive sufficient illumination in order to sense the Earth.