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European Remote Sensing (ERS-1)

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Status: Completed
Mission Category: Historical Missions
Launch Date: July 17, 1991
Launch Location: Kourou, French Guiana

The European Remote Sensing (ERS-1) satellite was the most sophisticated Earth observation satellite ever developed in Europe. It weighed over two tons, and fully deployed, covered almost 12 meters. The satellite circled the Earth once every 100 minutes, 780 up, beaming down data at a mind-boggling 105 megabits per second.

The satellite measured wind speed and direction, ocean wave parameters, and variations in the satellite’s height above sea-level and ice. It’s Active Microwave Instrument, the biggest on-board system, produced extremely detailed images of a 100 swath of the Earth’s surface-4.5 million pixels per second-downlinked directly to Earth. The satellite’s radiometer constructed detailed pictures of the thermal structure of the seas and oceans from surface temperature measurements.

In April 1995, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched ERS-2, a carbon copy of ERS-1 with one important difference: ERS-2’s payload included a new instrument (GOME) to measure stratospheric and tropospheric ozone. No other satellite could compete with the capabilities of ERS at the time. ERS gave scientists more confidence in modeling the climate of our planet on a global scale. Regionally, it kept a close eye on coastlines, marine pollution, and land use changes.

Far exceeding its lifespan, ERS-1 ended its mission in March 2000 after a computer and gyro control failure. ERS-2 continues its operation and is expected to do so for several more years.

Key European Remote Sensing Facts

Mission/Portal Page:
Origination: ESA
Instruments: ATSR (Along-Track Scanning Radiometer)
GOME (Global Ozon Monitoring Experiment)
MWR (Microwave Radiometer)
PRARE (Precise Range and Range-Rate Equipment)
RA (Radar Altimeter)
SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar)
WS (Wind Scatterometer)

Relevant Science Focus Areas:

  • Carbon Cycle
  • Ecosystems and Biogeochemistry
  • Climate Variability and Change
  • Water and Energy Cycles