Minimize Copernicus: Sentinel-4

Copernicus: Sentinel-4 GEO Component Mission

The Sentinel-4 (S-4) mission within the context of Copernicus represents the geostationary component of European (EC, ESA) operational atmospheric composition monitoring missions.

In December 2007, the GMES Atmospheric Service Implementation Group of the EC (European Commission), issued its preliminary recommendations for the development of the GMES Space Segment operational capabilities in regard of atmospheric missions. In particular, it recommended implementing the Sentinel-4 mission as a UVN (UV/Visible/Near-infrared) sounder to be deployed on the two MTG Sounding (MTG-S) satellites. 1) 2) 3) 4) 5)

Copernicus is the new name of the European Commission's Earth Observation Programme, previously known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security). The new name was announced on December 11, 2012, by EC (European Commission) Vice-President Antonio Tajani during the Competitiveness Council.

In the words of Antonio Tajani: “By changing the name from GMES to Copernicus, we are paying homage to a great European scientist and observer: Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543). As he was the catalyst in the 16th century to better understand our world, so the European Earth Observation Programme gives us a thorough understanding of our changing planet, enabling concrete actions to improve the quality of life of the citizens. Copernicus has now reached maturity as a programme and all its services will enter soon into the operational phase. Thanks to greater data availability user take-up will increase, thus contributing to that growth that we so dearly need today.”

Table 1: Copernicus is the new name of the former GMES program 6)

The objective of Sentinel-4 is to monitor key air quality trace gases and aerosols over Europe at high spatial resolution with a fast (hourly) revisit time in support of the GMES Atmosphere Service. The objective of the LEO missions, S-5 and S-5P, is to measure daily at global scale and high spatial resolution air quality and climate related trace gases and aerosols in the Earth’s atmosphere. The target species including O3, NO2, SO2, HCHO and aerosols shall be observed to support operational services covering air-quality near real-time applications, air-quality protocol monitoring and climate protocol monitoring. The S-4 system consists of an Ultra-violet Visible Near-infrared (UVN) imaging spectrometer embarked on EUMETSAT’s geostationary MTG-S platforms and relies on the utilization of subsets of data from EUMETSAT’s IRS sounder on-board the same platforms and from EUMETSAT’s FCI imager on-board the MTG-I platforms. S-5 UVN and SWIR (UVNS) is planned to be embarked on EUMETSAT’s EPS-SG series of satellites, while S-5P will fly on a dedicated platform. 7)


Figure 1: Coverage requirements of the UVN sounder defined by the yellow rectangle (image credit: ESA)

Considering the severe polarization sensitivity requirement and the sounder mass and volume constraints (140 kg), the concept that has been selected is a polarization scrambler to make the instrument insensitive to polarization. The concept of measuring polarization with high spectral resolution has not been retained due to the increased complexity and mass.

The Sentinel-4/5 and Sentinel-5 precursor missions will be devoted to atmospheric composition monitoring for the GMES Atmosphere Service. There will be two families of atmospheric chemistry monitoring missions, one in geostationary orbit (Sentinel-4) and one in low Earth orbit (Sentinel-5 precursor, Sentinel-5).

The Sentinel-4 mission will consist of an UVN (Ultraviolet-Visible-Near-Infrared) spectrometer accommodated on Meteosat Third Generation Sounder (MTG-S) platforms. Two missions are planned of the S-4 UVN payload: the first one in 2019 and the follow-up mission in 2027.

The Sentinel-4 GEO component mission has been approved by the ESA Council in 2008. - At EUMETSAT, the full MTG (MeteoSat Third Generation) program, which includes all the major development/procurement activities and the routine operations phase, was planned to start by January 2011 as a result of the approval process initiated by the 70th EUMETSAT Council held in Rome in June 2010. Because the approval process was taking longer than expected, the EUMETSAT Council in December 2010 debated authorizing the full start of MTG work as of January 2011 in parallel with the finalization of voting for those Member States which could not complete it by the Council itself. The EUMETSAT Council resolution, approving the full MTG program, entered into force on February 25, 2011. 8)

Note: The MTG series spacecraft are described in the MTG file on the eoPortal.


Launch: The Sentinel-4A (S4A) payload will be launched onboard the first EUMETSAT spacecraft MTG-S (Meteosat Third Generation-Sounder) with a planned launch in 2019 — actually a CFI (Customer Finished Item) and a hosted payload on MTS-S.

Orbit: Geostationary orbit, located at ~0º longitude.



Sentinel-4 mission sensor complement: (UVN)

On July 11, 2011, ESA awarded a contract to Astrium to develop and build two satellite sensors that will monitor Earth's atmosphere as part of Europe's Copernicus program. The identical spectrometers, known as Sentinel-4, will each be carried on the MTG (Meteosat Third Generation) weather satellites, to be launched in 2019 and 2027, respectively. 9)

The Sentinel-4 system consists of an Ultra-violet Visible Near-infrared (UVN) imaging spectrometer embarked on the EUMETSAT’s geostationary MTG-S platforms and relies on the utilization of subsets of data from EUMETSAT’s IRS (Infrared Sounder) on-board the same platforms and from EUMETSAT’s FCI (Flexible Combined Imager) imager data on-board the MTG-I platforms.

The Sentinel-5 UVN and SWIR (UVNS) sounder is planned to be embarked on EUMETSAT’s EPS-SG series of LEO satellites (i.e. MetOp-SG series), while the Sentinel-5P mission will fly on a dedicated platform.


UVN (Ultraviolet-Visible-Near-Infrared) Spectrometer:

The UVN instrument is a wide-field pushbroom hyperspectral imaging spectrometer, a sounder, that scans Europe in the East-West direction with a repeat cycle of 60 minutes. The FOV is about 9º in the East-West direction and about 3.4º in the North-South direction, centred on Europe. The UVN spectrometer features bands in the UV and VIS (305-500 nm) with a spectral resolution of 0.5 nm, and in the NIR (750-775 nm) spectral ranges with a spectral resolution of 0.12 nm, in combination with low polarization sensitivity and a high radiometric accuracy. 10) 11)


Figure 2: Spectral coverage of the UVN Sounder (image credit: ESA)


Spectral range (nm)

resolution (nm)

(Surface Sample Distance)

SNR @ 50ºN, 15:00 UTC, Equinox, albedo 0.05 (UV-VIS) & 0.15 (NIR) (per spectral sample)

Spectral sampling ratio





8 km

200 - 1000


O3, SO2, BrO, HCHO, AAI, AOD, Ring




8 km







8 km



Cloud, Aerosol

Table 2: UVNS observation requirements

The instrument design enables a short revisit time from east to west in one hour with sufficient east-west spatial dimension, covering most of Europe and North Africa. The reference area and the larger geographical coverage areas are shown in Figure 3. The east-west spatial dimension is accounted for by scanning the scan mirror from east to west in one hour. With about 570 spatial samples in the east-west spatial dimension this corresponds to about 6 seconds per 8 km spatial sample.


Figure 3: Sentinel-4/UVN geographical coverage area (GCA) and reference area (RA), image credit: ESA)

Legend to Figure 3: OZA = Observation Zenth Angle.

At sunrise in the east the instrument only scans the illuminated Earth, resulting in a total scan time of less than one hour. In the evening the same scenario is followed in the west. During autumn-winter the coverage area is shifted twice south by 5º in order to optimize observation of illuminated areas, as shown in Figure 3. During winter-spring, the scenario is reversed.

An example for a possible East-West scan in the NEO (Nominal Earth Observation) mode is given in Figure 4.


Figure 4: Example for a possible East-West scan pattern of the NEO mode (image credit: ESA)

The MTG-Sounder satellite embarking the S4/UVN instrument is in geostationary orbit at a longitude of about 0 degrees. The accommodation of the instrument is optimized, allowing the Earth radiance, sun irradiance and thermal fields of view to be clear and unobstructed. Furthermore straylight from the sun or the Earth via other spacecraft components is minimized per design. This is particularly important for such class of space instrumentation for which the Level 1b and Level 2 data product accuracies are very sensitive to even small straylight contributions.

At the equinoxes, the MTG-S spacecraft performs a yaw-flip maneuver in order to keep the satellite and instrument thermal environment optimized. For the instrument this implies that the scan mirror has to adjust the north-south axis to keep the geographical coverage area in view and reverse the east-west scan axis in order to keep scanning from east to west. In addition, the sun observations are performed in the evening rather than in the morning, or vice versa, as a result of the spacecraft yaw-flip maneuver.

The instrument is equipped with two frame-transfer CCD (Charge Coupled Device) detectors, one for the UV-VIS wavelength range and one for the NIR wavelength range. One dimension on the CCDs corresponds to the spectral dimension, while the other dimension corresponds to the north-south spatial dimension.

In the wavelength range covered by Sentinel-4/UVN the light from the Earth's atmosphere can be strongly linearly polarized, which is accounted for in the instrument design by minimizing the overall instrument polarization sensitivity in combination with the use of a weak polarization scrambler. A refractive spectrometer design is the baseline with two separate spectrometers, one optimized for the Ultra-Violet (UV) and visible (VIS) wavelength range and the other for the 25 nm spectral band in the Near-Infra-Red (NIR).

The instrument's polarization sensitivity has to be balanced with the optical quality properties on the Earth, which is especially critical for an instrument in a geostationary orbit. Using a too strong polarization scrambler will result in too much blurring of the ground sampling distance on the Earth's surface. Another way of putting this is to say that the integrated energy within a ground pixel (spatial sample) will need to be contained within the required values. As such, the polarization sensitivity, required to be less than 1%, and the integrated energy of a ground (spatial) sample are competing parameters.

The instrument is equipped with two solar diffusers that are designed to minimize the introduction of spectral and spatial features in the spectra that can interfere with the retrieval of the atmospheric trace gases.

The first diffuser is used on a daily basis to provide the required solar irradiance measurement data to allow calculation of the Earth reflectance (Earth radiance divided by solar irradiance), the second one on a monthly basis in order to monitor the radiometric degradation of the first diffuser. The solar measurements are performed at sunrise or sunset when no useful Earth radiance measurements are performed.

The instrument is also equipped with a 5 W WLS (White Light Source) in its calibration assembly. LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are integrated close to the detectors to monitor potential radiometric degradation, detector and electronics properties like detector bad and dead pixels, detector PRNU (Pixel Response Non-Uniformity), system non-linearity, etc.

Instrument originating spectral features, e.g. from the on-board diffusers as observed in predecessors, as well as remaining polarization spectral features may hamper the analysis of atmospheric trace gases. There are no dedicated calibration key parameters planned for correction of the spectral features, therefore these features have to be eliminated by the instrument design.

The relative spectral radiometric accuracy (peak-to-peak) are considering small spectral window widths of a couple of nm’s, which for compliance of the requirement incorporate these spectral features next to other relevant errors for the instrument response in sun calibration, Earth observation modes and for Earth reflectance. As example, in the UV/VIS between 315 and 500 nm, the maximum relative radiometric spectral accuracy error over a spectral window width of 3 nm is required to be smaller than 0.05%. The in-flight absolute radiometric accuracy of the Earth spectral radiance and of the Sun irradiance is required to be better than 3% with a goal of 2%. All values apply on a 1σ confidence level.

For sensitive hyperspectral spectrometers in Earth atmospheric observations such as Sentinel-4/UVN, the performance at Level 1b (and subsequently at Level 2) is a challenging balance between instrument performance and design at Level 0 and calibration plus data processing to convert the Level 0 data into geophysically calibrated Level 1b data. Depending on the parameter under consideration, the performance at Level 1b needs to be optimized by imposing more effort on any or more of the above three areas (instrument performance at Level 0, calibration and data processing) in order to obtain the best final results at Level 1b, that is compliant with the instrument Level 1b requirements at beginning of life and end of life (Ref. 5).


Figure 5: Illustration of the UVN spectrometer observation scheme from GEO (image credit: ESA)

UVN spectrometer requirements:

• Pushbroom in E/W direction

• N/S FOV: 4°

• E/W FOR: 6.8°

• 2 grating (dispersive) spectrometers

• CCD detectors cooled at 230 K

• High SNR

• Scan mirror:

- E/W scan

- N/S for compensation of MTG yaw flip maneuver around equinox; seasonal shift in latitude (per steps of 5º up to 10º)

• High performance on board calibration sources (diffusers, lamp, LED)

• Instrument mass = 150 kg; power = 180 W; data rate = 25 Mbit/s.



Sentinel-4 Ground Segment:

The Sentinel-4 Ground Segment elements are integrated and embedded within the EUMETSAT MTG ground segment. They comprise the following elements (Ref. 10):

1) The Sentinel-4 Level 1b and Level 2 processors

2) The generic and multi-mission supporting functions of the EUMETSAT MTG PDGS (Payload Data Ground Segment ) and FOS (Flight Operations Segment)

3) The Sentinel-4 ground segment system interfaces.

These ground segment interfaces are manifold at various levels:

- Sentinel-4 Payload (S4/UVN) to Sentinel-4 L1b Processors. This interface is part of the MTG Space-to-Ground Interface

- MTG Ground Segment to S4/UVN Level 2 Processor interface for non-S4 data required for processing

- Sentinel-4 User Interface like to i) the Copernicus User Community, ii) the Sentinel-4 Expert Users, iii) the Copernicus Space Component Coordinated Data Access System (CCS CDS)

- Sentinel-4 Level 2 Interface to ECMWF and other auxiliary providers (TBC)

- Sentinel-4 L1b Processor Interface to Sentinel-4 Image Quality Tool (IQT) which is part of the MTG-S IQT

- Interface with the ESA Sentinel-4 Mission Management. This interface is assumed to be a procedural interface.


1) G. Bazalgette Courrèges-Lacoste, M. Arcioni, Y. Meijer, J.-L. Bézy, P. Bensi, J. Langen, “Sentinel-4: The Geostationary Component of the GMES Atmospheric Monitoring Mission,” Proceedings of the 7th ICSO (International Conference on Space Optics) 2008, Toulouse, France, Oct. 14-17, 2008


3) Mark R. Drinkwater, “ESA's Living Planet Programme: Atmosphere Explorer and Sentinel Missions,” May 2010, URL:

4) Grégory Bazalgette Courrèges-Lacoste, Berit Ahlers, Benedikt Guldimann, Alex Short, Ben Veihelmann, Hendrik Stark, “The Sentinel-4/UVN instrument on-board MTG-S,” URL:

5) Hendrik R. Stark, Hermann Ludwig Möller, Grégory Bazalgette Courrèges-Lacoste, Rob Koopman, Silvia Mezzasoma, Ben Veihelmann, “The Sentinel-4 mission and its implementation,” Proceedings of the ESA Living Planet Symposium, Edinburgh, UK, Sept. 9-13, 2013 (ESA SP-722, Dec. 2013)

6) “Copernicus: new name for European Earth Observation Programme,” European Commission Press Release, Dec. 12, 2012, URL:

7) Paul Ingmann, Ben Veihelmann, Anne Grete Straume, Yasjka Meijer, “The status of implementation of the atmospheric composition related GMES missions Sentinel-4/Sentinel-5 and Sentinel-5p,” Proceedings of the 2012 EUMETSAT Meteorological Satellite Conference, Sopot, Poland, Sept. 3-7, 2012, URL:

8) “The EUMETSAT Council resolution approving the full Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) program entered into force on 25 February 2011,” EUMETSAT Newsletter, May 12, 2011, URL:

9) “Astrium to build ESA's Sentinel-4 atmospheric sensors,” ESA, July 11, 2011, URL:

10) Hendrik R. Stark, Hermann Ludwig Möller, Grégory Bazalgette Courrèges-Lacoste, Rob Koopman, Silvia Mezzasoma, Ben Veihelmann, “The Sentinel-4 mission, its components and its implementation,” Proceedings of the Joint EUMETSAT /AMS Meteorological Satellite Conference to address issues on Weather, Climate, Oceans and the Environment, Vienna, Austria, Sept. 16-20, 2013, URL:

11) Heinrich Bovensmann, Stefan Noël, Klaus Bramstedt, John P. Burrows, R. Siddans, C. Standfuss, E. Dufour, B. Veihelmann, “Expected Level 2 Performance of Sentinel 4 UVN on MTG and the impact of scene inhomogeneity,” ESA ATMOS (Atmospheric Science Conference) 2012, Bruges, Belgium, June 18-22, 2012, URL:

The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates.