Next satellite operating under Copernicus program will not be launched according to schedule. Sentinel-5P, which should reach orbit on the top of the Rockot launch vehicle in June this year will be launched two months later.
This launch was contracted by ESA, operator of the Copernicus, to Eurockot Launch Services GmbH, joined venture company owned by EADS Astrium and Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center. Company operates from Plesetsk Cosmodrome and offers Rockot rocket, a modified SS-19 Stiletto ICBM, to Customers who would like to deliver their payload to LEO orbit. Mainly successful and in fact very reliable rocket was launched last time on 4 June 2016 with Geo-IK-2 on the top. Unfortunately upper stage of the rocket, Briz-KM performed not as quite correct as it should. It suffered for problems with attitude control before it finally managed to deploy payload on the orbit. Since then rocket was not launched.
Mission covering delivery of the Sentinel-5P was planned originally for late 2016 was already postponed to June 2017. Now mission is delayed for another 2 months without announcing any reasons, what makes flight readiness of Briz-KM questionable. It is worth to remind that Sentinel-5P was already assembled on July 24, 2015. Final tests were passed in Toulouse, where Airbus, manufacturer of the Sentinel-5P has its main facility; it seems that fault is definitely on the side of launch service provider rather that on the side of ESA or Airbus. Sadly Eurockot is not giving any details making this case even more strange – Briz-KM is not new construction and is well known to Russian engineers – it should not be a problem to find potential reasons for malfunction.
Sentinel-5P (P stands for Precursor as first Sentinel-5 will be launched in 2021) should be placed on 824 km orbit inclined at 98.75° after launch from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia. Satellite weighs 980 kg and is powered by onboard batteries (156 Ah average power consumption of the satellite is 430 W) charged by two solar arrays deployed after reaching orbit by satellite. Spacecraft was built with utilization of Astrobus L250M satellite bus designed to remain in orbit for at least 7 years. Onboard memory is 480 Gbit and data transfer is possible with speed of 310 Mbit/s. Payload mass is ~220 kg and covers TROPOMI (TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument), which is basically multiwave spectrometer utilized to measure ozone, methane, formaldehyde, aerosol, carbon monoxide, NO2 and SO2 in the atmosphere. Device was created thanks to cooperation between different European organisations and companies like : Netherlands Space Office, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, Netherlands Institute for Space Research, Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research and Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands. Satellite will replace lost in 2012 ENVISAT weather satellite and improve present constellation of Copernicus.