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Beginning of the Satellite Cryosat-2’s operational life

(26/11/2010) With the commissioning of ESA’s CryoSat-2 now complete, the mission has been officially transferred to the operations team. This milestone marks the beginning of the satellite’s operational life delivering ice-thickness data to understand the impact of climate change on the polar environment.

The handover ceremony took place on 19 November at ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands, where the responsibility for the mission passed from CryoSat-2’s Project Manager, Richard Francis, to the Mission Manager, Tommaso Parrinello.

Richard Francis had held the mission’s reins since the decision was taken to rebuild CryoSat in 2006 following the loss of the original satellite during launch. However, his experience with the mission goes right back to 1999, when CryoSat was selected as an Earth Explorer mission and he worked as the System Manager.

Launched in April, the mission has recently completed commissioning – an important phase that ensures the satellite, instruments, data retrieval and data processing procedures are in optimal working order.

Now that this period is over, the mission has entered its exploitation phase and will start delivering vital data on ice thickness to the scientific community.

The satellite will continue to be monitored, operated and controlled by the Flight Operations Segment at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.

Together with GOCE and SMOS, both launched in 2009, CryoSat-2 forms part of the earth observation satellite series called Earth Explorers. These satellites have been designed by ESA to address areas of concern identified by experts working in the earth-sciences field, each satellite centering its research on different aspects of the earth system. CryoSat-2 will furnish hitherto unknown information on the earth’s crysophere (ice sheets and caps, glaciers and permafrost), with the main aim of helping scientists to come up with solutions for diminishing ice cover.

In Spain GMV took charge initially of part of the mission analysis activities. Subsequently, in a project for ESA’s Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Germany, GMV led the design, development and maintenance of the mission control system. This system is responsible for generating control orders and receiving the satellite-sent telemetry for checking the operation of the onboard equipment. To ensure correct system operation a four-person GMV team gave direct backup in ESA’s Operations Centre. GMV engineers will also participate in the orbital dynamics operations to ensure that the orbit of CryoSat-2 is correct at all times.