European Union launching biggest satellite project ever

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

ESA satellite
Up, up, and away goes the Sentinel-1a on a bold mission to monitor the world.

The European Union (EU) just launched the first spacecraft in a six-satellite project known as Copernicus – a program that will create detailed images of Earth. This is the biggest project of its kind and should be in full operation by the year 2019.

The 2.3-ton satellite, called Sentinel-1a, was launched into orbit earlier this week by a Soyuz rocket. It features all kinds of high-tech bells and whistles, including laser and radar technology that will map out the Earth – even on the cloudiest of days. When the other 5 satellites are launched into space over the next few years, the fleet of “Sentinels” will collect around 8 terabytes of data every day, which is thousands of times more than a typical computer can handle.

So, what does the EU need all this information for? The data from the Sentinels will be used to monitor Earth’s environment, including the land, ocean, and atmosphere. Additionally, it’ll be a great way to stay on the lookout for natural disasters and their devastating effects. Finally, the tech could be tremendously useful for military defense

The Sentinel-1a just finished an 11-hour long process of unfolding its various parts into position, and it will take another 3 months to ensure all of its systems are working properly.

Images courtesy of the ESA.