Sentinel 5P launches aboard Rockot

ESA’s Sentinel 5P environmental monitoring satellite has been successfully launched by a Russian Rockot booster out of Plesetsk Cosmodrome.  The subarctic launch site is ideal for polar orbiting spacecraft, and Sentinel 5P will require a polar orbit in order to carry out its mission of monitoring pollutants over every major city on Earth.  Built in Great Britain with Dutch contributions (primarily instrumentation), it’s part of the Copernicus Program, an ambitious international project to provide real-time data on the status of the Earth’s atmosphere, waterways, ice sheets, and landmasses to all, free of charge.  The booster, meanwhile, is a decommissioned Soviet ICBM; arms limitation treaties mean Russia cannot keep the entire inventory, so they have been putting them to work as commercial launch vehicles.  The Rockot inventory is largely a set of ICBMs purchased as a block from the Russian government in the 1990s by a consortium of Khrunichev (which made the rockets originally) and DaimlerBenz; Daimler’s portion has since been bought out by Astrium (part owner of Arianespace).

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