01 March 2002 - Spectacular night-time launch places European environmental eye in orbit

The eagerly awaited launch of ESA's ENVISAT environmental monitoring satellite took place in Kourou, French Guiana, on Friday March 1, 2002. At 01:07.59 GMT, the Ariane 5 launch vehicle propelled ENVISAT towards a lofty vantage point some 800 km above the Earth's surface.

ENVISAT is a very large & ambitious satellite, (with 8 instruments, it weighs over 8 tonnes & is the size of London bus), and is extremely important for the continued monitoring and investigation of climate and environmental change (Details of the mission can be found at http://envisat.esa.int).

The Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) has been involved in supporting the development of the Radar Altimeter (RA-2), and will be heavily involved in the instrument calibration and validation exercise in the coming months.

Operating over oceans, the measurements made by the RA-2 are used to determine the ocean topography. The RA-2 is able to map and monitor sea ice, polar ice sheets, and most land surfaces.

MSSL also played a leading role in the development of another instrument on board the ENVISAT spacecraft, the Advanced Along Track Scanning Radiometer (AATSR), an instrument that will help predict climate change by accurately measuring sea surface temperatures.

Data from the RA-2, AATSR and ASAR support MSSL's research into polar observation and modelling, particularly in looking for changes in the Arctic Sea Ice and the Antarctic and Greenland Ice Sheets. ENVISAT will provide a vital continuity of measurements to detect climate change, which started with the European ERS-1 mission.

Steven Baker
01483 204104 or Email sgb@mssl.ucl.ac.uk
MSSL switchboard
01483 204100
MSSL website

Last modified 01 March 2002

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