SENTINEL-2, part of ESA’s Copernicus program, is actually two separate two satellites –  SENTINEL-2A and SENTINEL-2B.  S-2A was launched on June 23rd, 2015 and 2B was launched two years later on March 7th, 2017. 

Both 2A and 2B are optical satellites, with multiple wavelength detectors, primarily for monitoring changes on land but can also work over water. This gives it the ability to ability to capture amazing imagery (e.g. the Great Salt Lake in Utah, or algae blooms). The data can help a wide range of industries from insurers to fish farmers and from commodity traders to city planners.  

The data from  SENTINEL-2 will allow for the detection of changes in land, identification of crops, or distinguishing between snow and cloud – all of which will allow more effective analysis can be conducted. 


  • Bands
    • They have 13  spectral bands
  • Scale
    • They take a wide image known as a “wide swath” with each image having a width of 290 km
  • Revisit
    • High revisit frequency
    • 10 days at the equator with one satellite, and 5 days with 2 satellites under cloud-free conditions
  • Coverage
    • They operate between latitudes 56° south and 84° north.

These satellites have an SSO – Sun-Synchronous Orbits phased at 180° to each other  – which means that they are orbiting the earth, at opposing hemispheres, constantly in sync with the cycle of the sun and with each other. 



Sentinel-2, ESA
ESA Sentinel-2

SENTINEL-2 Technical Details (from ESA)

The MultiSpectral Instrument (MSI) samples 13 spectral bands which allow for the determination of land cover and change classification. By using a combination of these spectral bands it is possible to evaluate vegetation indices that reveal significant detail on the type and health of plants, as well as identifying bodies of water and built-up areas.

The Sentinel-2 mission is a major contributor to the Copernicus program as well as helping promote an understanding climate change.





First launch




Orbit type

SSO (Sun-synchronous Orbit) 12 day repeat cycle LTAN = 18:00 hours

SSO 10 day repeat cycle LTDN = 10:30 hours

SSO 27 day repeat cycle LTDN = 10:00 hours

Orbital altitude

693 km

786 km

800 km

Sensor complement

C-SAR (C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar)

MSI (Multi-Spectral Instrument)

SRAL (Sentinel-3 Radar Altimeter) MWR (Microwave Radiometer) OLCI (Ocean and Land Color Instrument) SLSTR (Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer)

Spacecraft mass Spacecraft size Spacecraft power

2300 kg 3.4 m x 1.3 m x 1.3 m 4.8 kW (EOL)

1100 kg 3.0 m x 1.7 m x 2.2 m 1.7 kW (EOL)

1250 kg 3.9 m x 2.2 m x 2.2 m 2.05 kW (EOL)

Downlink X-band data rate

520 Mbit/s

520 Mbit/s

520 Mbit/s

TT&C S-band

64 kbit/s uplink 128 kbit/s or 2 Mbit/s downlink

64 kbit/s uplink 128 kbit/s or 2 Mbit/s downlink

64 kbit/s uplink 128 kbit/s or 2 Mbit/s downlink

Science data storage

1.4 Tbit (EOL)

2 Tbit (EOL)

300 Gbit (EOL)

Required data quality

BER (Bit Error Rate): < 10-9

FER (Frame Error Rate): < 10-8

FER (Frame Error Rate): < 10-7

Operational autonomy

8 days

14 days

27 days

Prime contractor

TAS-I (Thales Alenia Space-Italy)

EADS Astrium GmbH, Germany

TAS-F (Thales Alenia Space-France)

Baseline launcher

Soyuz (Kourou)

Vega (Kourou)

Vega (Kourou)