The problem is bigger than expected: ESA’s Sentinel-1B earth observation satellite is out of service

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ESA’s Sentinel-1B earth observation satellite has been down since December 23 and a “carefully prepared” attempt to get it back online has now been called off. The European Space Agency said that during the work it became clear that the original anomaly is the result of a “possibly serious problem” with part of the energy supply. Therefore, further investigations would have to follow in order to find the cause of the problem. It is therefore still unclear how long the work will take and when Sentinel-1B can be put back into operation.

Sentinel-1B is part of the European Union’s Copernicus Earth observation program and is one of two radar satellites working together to look at the Earth’s surface. The two keep an eye out for the smallest environmental changes, such as the melting of glacier ice, changes in land use or the condition of the rainforests, but also for temporary phenomena such as oil leaks. Even volcanic eruptions can be predicted by regularly measuring the earth’s surface with millimeter precision. Sentinel-1A was launched in 2014, followed by Sentinel-1B in April 2016. Both should work for at least seven years, the German Aerospace Center explained.

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As the ESA is now explaining, the restart of the failed satellite had actually been “carefully prepared” in the past few days. She also worked on configuration changes on board the satellite that should prevent the “anomaly” from happening again. But then it became clear that there was a more serious problem. As a result, she was unable to turn on the power supply for the radar instruments and is now working on solving the underlying problem. Those responsible for the outage apologize to users of the freely available data from Sentinel-1B.

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