During the five-month in orbit commission phase following the launch on 16 February, EUMETSAT supported ESA in the verification that the satellite, instruments and the prime functions of the ground segment perform as expected.
The first images from all three main instrument chains – the Ocean and Land Colour Instrument, the Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer and the SAR Altimeter associated to the Microwave Radiometer – were produced jointly and released to the public in March and early April, already showing the high potential of the Sentinel-3 mission.
The formal handover concludes a transition phase during which EUMETSAT, under the supervision of ESOC, took an increasing role in operating the satellite, sending its first command on 29 April, performing its first manoeuvre on 2 June and carrying out routine operations since 4 July.
José Morales, Head of Copernicus Flight Operations Office at ESOC, ESA’s Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt said: “After almost five months of intense work implementing the Launch and Early Orbit Phase, Commissioning and Calibration phases of Sentinel-3A, in parallel with the transition of operations responsibility to the EUMETSAT team working with us, it is now time to hand-over the ‘little baby’ to its final operator. The ESOC team will now concentrate on the preparation of its twin brother, Sentinel-3B, for the launch in 2017”.
Kevin Marston, EUMETSAT System Operations Manager said: “Thanks to the excellent cooperation with the ESOC teams, we are now ready to take over operations of the satellite and the Flight Operations Segment and to enter the operations ramp up phase during which we will start to deliver Sentinel-3 marine products to Copernicus users.”
The next milestone is to follow in autumn, when the Payload Data Ground Segment will be declared operational for an initial set of products, and its Marine component will be handed over to EUMETSAT. EUMETSAT will then deliver the Sentinel-3A marine mission on behalf of the European Union and in partnership with ESA.
The operations ramp-up phase will continue into spring 2017 and EUMETSAT and ESA will continuously increase the portfolio of operational products, capitalising on the joint calibration and validation programme.