When you hear of a satellite being launched what pictures come to mind? Probably something like this.
Well that may be so. But never judge a book by its cover, or in this case size.
Now the European Space Agency has launched the PROBA-V, the newest in the PROBA series of mini-satellites to monitor Earth’s vegetation.
This duty had, for the past 15 years been given to the SPOT-4 and SPOT-5 satellites, both much larger than PROBA-V.
ESA launched this washing machine sized survey satellite on May 6th 2013 along with two other satellites in the same launch vehicle, the VEGA rocket. The first one being Vietnam’s VNREDSat Earth observation mission and the second Estonia’s ESTCube-1 student nano-satellite, to test electric solar sail technology.
It’s daily routine consists of orbiting the Earth 14 times and capturing vegetation data with it’s 100m resolution camera. Every 10 days it will output a 200,000 megapixel image of the Earth’s vegetation.
As mentioned above this sort of data collection was and is to some degree done by the Vegetation 1 and Vegetation 2 sensors on the SPOT-4 and SPOT-5 satellites. But these sensors will be unavailable. To replace them ESA is developing a new series of satellites called Sentinel under the Copernicus program, previously called GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security).
Altogether 5 are being developed and Sentinel 3 will be taking on most of the duties of SPOT-4 and 5, and more. But these satellites will not be ready in time, so in order to breach the gap and have continuous collection of data ESA decided to develop a small satellite mission based on the much successful PROBA design.
PROBA-V is designed and developed entirely in Belgium using state of the art technologies and will be “holding the fort” till ESA launches Sentinel 3 next year.