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Sentinel 2-IMG 5873-white (crop).jpg
Model of a Sentinel 2 satellite
OperatorEuropean Space Agency
ApplicationsLand and sea monitoring, natural disasters mapping, sea ice observations, ships detection
Spacecraft typeSatellite
Launch mass1,140 kg (2,513 lb)[2]
Dry mass1,016 kg (2,240 lb)[2]
Dimensions3.4 × 1.8 × 2.35 m (11.2 × 5.9 × 7.7 ft)[2]
Power1,700 W[3]
Design life7 years
Maiden launchSentinel-2A
23 June 2015
Last launchSentinel-2B
7 March 2017
← Sentinel-1 Sentinel-3

Sentinel-2 is an Earth observation mission from the Copernicus Programme that systematically acquires optical imagery at high spatial resolution (10 m to 60 m) over land and coastal waters. The mission is a constellation with two twin satellites, Sentinel-2A and Sentinel-2B.

The mission supports a broad range of services and applications such as agricultural monitoring, emergencies management, land cover classification or water quality.

Sentinel-2 has been developed and is being operated by the European Space Agency, and the satellites were manufactured by a consortium led by Airbus Defence and Space.


The Sentinel-2 mission has the following key characteristics:

  • Multi-spectral data with 13 bands in the visible, near infrared, and short wave infrared part of the spectrum
  • Systematic global coverage of land surfaces from 56° S to 84° N, coastal waters, and all of the Mediterranean Sea
  • Revisiting every 10 days under the same viewing angles. At high latitudes, Sentinel-2 swath overlap and some regions will be observed twice or more every 10 days, but with different viewing angles.
  • Spatial resolution of 10 m, 20 m and 60 m
  • 290 km field of view
  • Free and open data policy

To achieve frequent revisits and high mission availability, two identical Sentinel-2 satellites (Sentinel-2A and Sentinel-2B) operate together. The satellites are phased 180 degrees from each other on the same orbit. This allows for what would be a 10-day revisit cycle to be completed in 5 days.[4] The 290km swath is created by the VNIR and SWIR, which are each made of 12 detectors that are lined in two offset rows. [5]

The orbit is Sun synchronous at 786 km (488 mi) altitude, 14.3 revolutions per day, with a 10:30 a.m. descending node. This local time was selected as a compromise between minimizing cloud cover and ensuring suitable Sun illumination. It is close to the Landsat local time and matches SPOT's, allowing the combination of Sentinel-2 data with historical images to build long-term time series.


The Sentinel-2 synthetic data and images generated therefrom are subject to an agreement between the ESA and the User, are laid out in a document entitled TERMS AND CONDITIONS FOR THE USE AND DISTRIBUTION OF SENTINEL DATA, which is a type of open access licence.[6]


The launch of the first satellite, Sentinel-2A, occurred 23 June 2015 at 01:52 UTC on a Vega launch vehicle.[7]

Sentinel-2B was launched on 7 March 2017 at 01:49 UTC,[8] also aboard a Vega rocket.[2]


The Sentinel-2 satellites each carry a single multi-spectral instrument (MSI) with 13 spectral channels in the visible/near infrared (VNIR) and short wave infrared spectral range (SWIR). Within the 13 bands, the 10 meter spatial resolution allows for continued collaboration with the SPOT-5 and Landsat-8 missions, with the core focus being land classification.[9]

Designed and built by Airbus Defense and Space in France, the MSI imager uses a push-broom concept and its design has been driven by the large 290 km (180 mi) swath requirements together with the high geometrical and spectral performance required of the measurements.[10] It has a 150 mm (6 in) aperture and a three-mirror anastigmat design with a focal length of about 600 mm (24 in); the instantaneous field of view is about 21° by 3.5°.[11] The mirrors are rectangular and made of silicon carbide, a similar technology to those on the Gaia mission. The system also employs a shutter mechanism preventing direct illumination of the instrument by the sun. This mechanism is also used in the calibration of the instrument.[12] Out of all the different civic optical earth observation missions, Sentinel-2 is the first to have the ability to show three bands in the red edge. [13] The radiometric resolution is 12 bit with brightness intensity ranging from 0-4095. [14]

Spectral bands[edit]

Spectral bands for the Sentinel-2 sensors[15]
Sentinel-2 bands Sentinel-2A Sentinel-2B
Central wavelength (nm) Bandwidth (nm) Central wavelength (nm) Bandwidth (nm) Spatial resolution (m)
Band 1 – Coastal aerosol 442.7 21 442.2 21 60
Band 2 – Blue 492.4 66 492.1 66 10
Band 3 – Green 559.8 36 559.0 36 10
Band 4 – Red 664.6 31 664.9 31 10
Band 5 – Vegetation red edge 704.1 15 703.8 16 20
Band 6 – Vegetation red edge 740.5 15 739.1 15 20
Band 7 – Vegetation red edge 782.8 20 779.7 20 20
Band 8 – NIR 832.8 106 832.9 106 10
Band 8A – Narrow NIR 864.7 21 864.0 22 20
Band 9 – Water vapour 945.1 20 943.2 21 60
Band 10 – SWIR – Cirrus 1373.5 31 1376.9 30 60
Band 11 – SWIR 1613.7 91 1610.4 94 20
Band 12 – SWIR 2202.4 175 2185.7 185 20

Temporal offsets[edit]

Due to the layout of the focal plane, spectral bands within the MSI instrument observe the surface at different times and vary between band pairs.[12]

Temporal offset (in seconds) between selected band pairs[12]
Inter-band Pairs Temporal Offset Between Bands (s)
B08 / B02 0.264
B03 / B08 0.264
B03 / B02 0.527
B10 / B03 0.324
B10 / B02 0.851
B04 / B10 0.154
B04 / B02 1.005
B05 / B04 0.264
B05 / B02 1.269
B11 / B05 0.199
B11 / B02 1.468
B06 / B11 0.057
B06 / B02 1.525
B07 / B06 0.265
B07 / B02 1.790
B8a / B07 0.265
B8a / B02 2.055
B12 / B8a 0.030
B12 / B02 2.085
B01 / B12 0.229
B01 / B02 2.314
B09 / B01 0.271
B09 / B02 2.586

These temporal offsets can be used to our benefit, for example to track propagating natural and man-made features such as clouds, airplanes or ocean waves[16][17]


Sentinel-2 serves a wide range of applications related to Earth's land and coastal water.

The mission provides information for agricultural and forestry practices and for helping manage food security. Satellite images will be used to determine various plant indices such as leaf area chlorophyll and water content indexes. This is particularly important for effective yield prediction and applications related to Earth's vegetation.

As well as monitoring plant growth, Sentinel-2 is used to map changes in land cover and to monitor the world's forests. It also provides information on pollution in lakes and coastal waters. Images of floods, volcanic eruptions [18] and landslides contribute to disaster mapping and help humanitarian relief efforts.

Examples of applications include:

  • Monitoring land cover change for environmental monitoring
  • Agricultural applications, such as crop monitoring and management to help food security
  • Detailed vegetation and forest monitoring and parameter generation (e.g. leaf area index, chlorophyll concentration, carbon mass estimations)
  • Observation of coastal zones (marine environmental monitoring, coastal zone mapping)
  • Inland water monitoring
  • Glacier monitoring, ice extent mapping, snow cover monitoring
  • Flood mapping & management (risk analysis, loss assessment, disaster management during floods)
  • Lava flow mapping [19]

The Sentinel Monitoring web application offers an easy way to observe and analyse land changes based on archived Sentinel-2 data.[20]


The following two main products are generated by the mission:[21]

  • Level-1C: Top-of-atmosphere reflectances in cartographic geometry (combined UTM projection and WGS84 ellipsoid). Level-1C products are tiles of 100 km2 each one with a volume of approximately 500 MB. These products are radiometrically and geometrically corrected (including orthorectification). This product can be obtained from the Copernicus Open Access Hub.
  • Level-2A: Surface reflectances in cartographic geometry. This product is considered as the mission Analysis Ready Data (ARD), the product that can be used directly in downstream applications without the need for further processing. This product can be obtained either from the Copernicus Open Access Hub or generated by the user with the sen2cor processor from ESA's SNAP Toolbox.

Additionally, the following product for expert users is also available:

  • Level-1B: Top of atmosphere radiances in sensor geometry. Level-1B is composed of granules, one granule represents the sub-image one of the 12 detectors in the across track direction (25 km), and contains a given number of lines along track (approximately 23 km). Each Level-1B granule has a data volume of approximately 27 MB. Given the complexity of Level-1B products, their usage require an advanced expertise.


Examples of images taken.


  1. ^ a b c d "Sentinel 2". Earth Online. European Space Agency. Retrieved 17 August 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d van Oene, Jacques (17 November 2016). "ESA's Sentinel 2B spacecraft steps into the spotlight". Spaceflight Insider. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  3. ^ "Sentinel-2 Data Sheet" (PDF). European Space Agency. August 2013.
  4. ^ "Orbit - Sentinel 2 - Mission - Sentinel Online". Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  5. ^ "Sentinel-2 - Missions - Instrument Payload - Sentinel Handbook". Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  6. ^ "TERMS AND CONDITIONS FOR THE USE AND DISTRIBUTION OF SENTINEL DATA" (PDF) (version 1.0). European Space Agency. July 2014.
  7. ^ Nowakowski, Tomasz (23 June 2015). "Arianespace successfully launches Europe's Sentinel-2A Earth observation satellite". Spaceflight Insider. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
  8. ^ Bergin, Chris (6 March 2017). "Sentinel-2B rides Vega to join Copernicus fleet". Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  9. ^ "Copernicus: Sentinel-2 - Satellite Missions - eoPortal Directory". Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  10. ^ "Sentinel-2 MSI: Overview". European Space Agency. Retrieved 17 June 2015.
  11. ^ Chorvalli, Vincent (9 October 2012). GMES Sentinel-2 MSI Telescope Alignment (PDF). International Conference on Space Optics. 9–12 October 2012. Ajaccio, France.
  12. ^ a b c "MSI Instrument – Sentinel-2 MSI Technical Guide – Sentinel Online". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  13. ^ "Copernicus: Sentinel-2 - Satellite Missions - eoPortal Directory". Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  14. ^ "Radiometric - Resolutions - Sentinel-2 MSI - User Guides - Sentinel Online". Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  15. ^ "MultiSpectral Instrument (MSI) Overview". Sentinel Online. European Space Agency. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  16. ^ Kudryavtsev, Vladimir; Yurovskaya, Maria; Chapron, Bertrand; Collard, Fabrice; Donlon, Craig (January 2017). "Sun glitter imagery of ocean surface waves. Part 1: Directional spectrum retrieval and validation". Journal of Geophysical Research. 122 (16): 1918. doi:10.1002/2016JC012425.
  17. ^ ref>Maisongrande, Philippe; Almar, Rafael; Bergsma, Erwin W. J. (January 2019). "Radon-Augmented Sentinel-2 Satellite Imagery to Derive Wave-Patterns and Regional Bathymetry". Remote Sensing. 11 (16): 1918. Bibcode:2019RemS...11.1918B. doi:10.3390/rs11161918.
  18. ^ Corradino, C., Ganci, G., Cappello, A., Bilotta, G., Hérault, A., & Del Negro, C., Claudia Corradino (2019). "Mapping Recent Lava Flows at Mount Etna Using Multispectral Sentinel-2 Images and Machine Learning Techniques". Remote Sensing. 16 (11): 1916.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  19. ^ Corradino, Claudia; Bilotta, Giuseppe; Cappello, Annalisa; Fortuna, Luigi; Del Negro, Ciro (2021). "Combining Radar and Optical Satellite Imagery with Machine Learning to Map Lava Flows at Mount Etna and Fogo Island". Energies. 14 (1): 197. doi:10.3390/en14010197.
  20. ^ "Sentinel Monitoring". Sentinel Hub/Sinergise. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
  21. ^ "Sentinel-2 MSI: Product Types". European Space Agency. Retrieved 17 June 2015.

External links[edit]