ESA Future Missions - Overview
ESA is developing a series of next-generation Earth observation missions, on behalf of the joint ESA/European Commission initiative Copernicus. The goal of the Sentinel program is to replace the current older Earth observation missions which have reached retirement such as the ERS mission or are currently nearing the end of their operational life span, such as the Envisat mission. This will ensure a continuity of data so that there are no gaps in ongoing studies.
Future ESA missions also include the Earth Explorers, which are part of the Living Planet Programme and focus on the study of the Earth's atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and the planet's interior. These missions will be launched between 2012 and 2015 and will help to understand our planet's climate.
Candidate Earth Explorers - One of these candidate Core missions will be chosen as ESA's seventh Earth Explorer after the feasability studies are completed and the mission will be launched in 2016.
As part of the Living Planet Programme, Earth Watch furthermore aims at securing an independent sustainable capability in operational Earth Observation for Europe. This capability must satisfy requirements for operational services supporting both institutional needs and commercial initiatives.
ESA Missions in Development
The objective of Sentinel-2 is Land monitoring, and the mission will be composed of two polar-orbiting satellites providing high-resolution optical imagery. Vegetation, soil and water cover, inland waterways and coastal areas are among the monitoring objectives. Sentinel-2 will also provide disaster monitoring for emergency services. The first Sentinel-2 satellite is planned for launch in 2015.
The primary objective of Sentinel-3 is marine observation, and it will study sea-surface topography, sea and land surface temperature, ocean and land colour. Composed of three satellites, the mission's primary instrument is a Radar Altimeter, but the polar-orbiting satellites will carry multiple instruments, including optical imagers as well. The first Sentinel-3 satellite is planned for launch in 2015.
Sentinel-4 is dedicated to air quality monitoring. The Sentinel-4 UVN instrument is a spectrometer carried aboard Meteosat Third Generation satellites, operated by EUMETSAT. The mission aims to provide continuous monitoring of the composition of the Earth's atmosphere at high temporal and spatial resolution and the data will be used to support monitoring and forecasting over Europe.
Sentinel-5 is dedicated to air quality monitoring. The Sentinel-5 UVNS instrument is a spectrometer carried aboard the MetOp Second Generation satellites. The mission aims to provide continuous monitoring of the composition of the Earth's atmosphere. It provides wide-swath, global coverage data to monitor air quality around the world.
A precursor satellite mission, Sentinel-5P aims to fill in the data gap and provide data continuity between the retirement of the Envisat satellite and NASA's Aura mission and the launch of Sentinel-5. The mission will perform atmospheric monitoring and is planned for launch in 2016.
Latest Mission News