The Long Road to TROPOMI

News - 12 October 2017

TROPOMI launches tomorrow, starting a new phase of atmospheric composition monitoring. The coming 24 hours will be some of the most important in its lifecycle, but it has been a much longer journey to get to this point, requiring true collaboration across Europe.   

Sentinel-5P. Source: ESA

The need for TROPOMI and Sentinel-5P was first identified nearly 15 years ago by Dutch researchers to fill the gap between existing missions that were soon to be ending, and the planned Sentinel-4 and Sentinel-5 missions in the early 2020s.

In 2009, the Dutch government signed an agreement with the European Space Agency to officially begin the TROPOMI project.

TROPOMI is a state-of-the-art spectrometer designed and built by TNO and the Dutch Space Institute. Construction of the Sentinel-5P payload satellite was carried out by AIRBUS Defence and Space (based in the UK and the Netherlands).

Working on TROPOMI at AIRBUS. Source: ESA 

Preparation for Launch Day
After assembly, everything needed to be prepared for launch. The satellite was first shipped from the UK to Toulouse (France) to be tested. These tests included subjecting the satellite and TROPOMI to both the sound and vibrations of a rocket launch, as well as subsequently checking their performance in simulated conditions of the vacuum and extreme temperatures of space.

Following testing, Sentinel-5P was shipped back to the UK for final adjustments, and then transported to Plesetsk in Russia where it was packaged up and placed in the Rockot rocket which will take it into space. Within just the past few days, Sentinel-5P was sealed off, the rocket moved to the launch pad, and the rocket fuelled. It just needs to wait.

Sentinel-5P loaded inside the Rockot transport vehicle that will take it into space. Source: ESA

That is just the hardware, though. On the mission control side, ESA scientists and engineers have also been hard at work, spending months training and preparing for the big day tomorrow. Those responsible for handling the mission from the control centre ESOC in Darmstadt, Germany, have been practicing different scenarios in order to be prepared in the event of something going wrong. With such an investment of time and money that have gone into this mission, you can never be too careful!

Mission control at ESOC. Source: ESA

For more, be sure to check out ESA’s launch blog:

Launch Day
The live broadcast of the TROPOMI launch event kicks off tomorrow morning at 10:30 CET. It can be followed online here

We will also be bringing you live updates on Twitter (@GRS_TUDelft and Instagram (@grs_tu_delft via #GRS_TROPOMI.

Further Reading:
1. TROPOMI Website
2. Sentinel Website
4. ESA Launch Blog
5. ESA Sentinel-5P Image Gallery