Airbus delivers Sentinel-4 instrument for air quality monitoring.

Airbus has announced the successful delivery of the first Sentinel-4/UVN multispectral instrument flight model to the European Space Agency (ESA). The instrument is scheduled for installation onto the Meteosat Third Generation Sounder (MTG-S1) satellite next year and will continuously monitor key air quality trace gases and aerosols from geostationary orbit with Europe and North Africa in the field of view. The development and manufacture of the Sentinel-4 spectrometer for the Copernicus programme was led by Airbus in Ottobrunn/Munich.

The Sentinel-4 instrument is a high resolution spectrometer with a fast revisit time operating in three bands covering the ultraviolet (305-400 nm), visible (400-500 nm), and near infrared (750-775 nm) wavelength ranges. It will monitor nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), sulphur dioxide (SO2), formaldehyde, glyoxal, and aerosols, which are vital for assessing air quality. Understanding the atmospheric composition will help reduce the risks of phenomena such as desert dust plumes, long-range transport of atmospheric pollutants, including pollen, as well as ash plumes from volcanic eruptions.

“The information gathered by the Sentinel-4 instrument will help decision makers shape European policies on public health and air-traffic safety to protect European citizens,” said Philippe Pham, Head of Earth Observation and Science at Airbus. “The combination of a geostationary satellite and an instrument such as Sentinel-4 means that measurements of trace gases in the Earth’s atmosphere can be performed above Europe in record time of about 1 hour.”

The MTG-S1 spacecraft, on which the first model of the Sentinel-4 instrument will be installed, is scheduled for launch in 2024. The second model, which has yet to be built, will fly on board MTG-S2 to be launched in 2034. The purpose is to ensure data availability to the scientific community over a period of two decades.

The Sentinel-4 mission is an initiative of the European Union and the European Space Agency, providing continuous monitoring of the atmosphere above Europe. Both the spacecraft and the instrument will be operated by EUMETSAT, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites. The Sentinel-4 instrument builds on the experience of previous proven ESA instruments like Sciamachy and Tropomi (on-board Sentinel-5P), also built by Airbus.

The Sentinel-4 mission is part of the Copernicus programme, the European Union’s flagship Earth observation programme, which provides free, open and full access to data for environmental and security applications. It will enable the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) to deliver high-quality and accurate information on air quality, including the levels of harmful pollutants, to support policy making and environmental management.

“Sentinel-4 will provide crucial knowledge about air quality in large parts of the northern hemisphere, together with the American mission TEMPO and the South Korean mission GEMS. This information is of great importance to decision-makers and scientists, allowing them to assess and monitor the impact of human activity on our planet,” said Toni Tolker-Nielsen, Head of Earth Observation, Navigation and Science at ESA.