Envisat concludes a busy second year in orbit

Two years on this lorry-sized spacecraft operates nominally in the extreme environment of space; it circles the world every hundred minutes at a speed of seven kilometres per second while its ten onboard instruments gather a mass of data about the terrestrial environment.

More than 70 different types of information products derived from Envisat data are now available. Fresh products will add to this number during the coming year, while existing products undergo a process of continuous improvement. The products represent valuable tools for researchers and service providers requiring knowledge about the current state of our planet.

Seeing more of the world

One major development since Envisat's first year occurred last spring when ESA's Artemis telecommunication satellite finally reached its assigned station, in geostationary orbit 36,000 km above the Congo Basin. During its launch in July 2001 Artemis was placed in the wrong orbit, and mission controllers had to spend the next 18 months nursing the spacecraft up to its intended position.

Envisat had always been designed to work in conjunction with Artemis. Without it the amount of data Envisat could return to Earth was constrained by onboard storage limits as well as bottlenecking at the overworked Kiruna ground station in Sweden - even after a back-up downlink capability was added to a neighbouring ground station at Svalbard in the Norwegian Arctic.

By last summer Envisat could relay data via Artemis to ESRIN in Frascati, from which it is processed and distributed to users. The result is that Envisat now returns sufficient data to image the entire surface of the world during each and every orbit.

"We have seen the data returned by the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) in its full resolution mode increase threefold since the summer," says Envisat Mission Manager Henri Laur. "And the data yield from the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) inst

Contact: Henri Laur
European Space Agency

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