The European Space Agency (ESA) is adding the final touches to begin the ambitious Copernicus Program. The EU will kick off the largest Earth-observation program in history with the upcoming launch of the Sentinel-1A.

The Copernicus program is a multi-satellite observation program involving the Sentinel family of satellites. When all of the Sentinel satellites have been launched, they will form a network tasked with gathering an unprecedented amount of data regarding the planet.

The first of the Copernicus satellites to be launched will be the Sentinel-1A. The new satellite is a polar-orbiting satellite that will be gathering data using its Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). With its onboard radar systems, the Sentinel-1A will be gathering weather data for the Copernicus program.

"As part of the Copernicus programme, Sentinel-1A is the first of a two-satellite mission that will image land and oceans using highly precise radar, enabling the pair to acquire imagery regardless of weather," says the ESA.

The final preparations for the satellite's launch have been completed by April 2 and the launch teams and mission control are preparing for the actual launch. The satellite will be carried into orbit by a Soyuz rocket, which will lift off an ESA spaceport located in French Guiana. The launch is scheduled for 21:02 GMT (23:02 CEST).

"On Thursday, the Soyuz launcher will provide Sentinel-1A with a spectacular ride into orbit at about 693 km altitude, and mission controllers expect to receive the satellite's first signals around 25 minutes later," the ESA adds.

Following the Sentinel-1A's launch, the ESA will launch several other satellites to complete the Copernicus constellation of satellites in orbit. Using a wide variety of instrumentation, the Copernicus program will be able to provide scientists, government agencies and other parties with the necessary data to precisely determine the exact current state of the planet. Moreover, the data will also be useful in creating simulations and predictions of future climate and weather trends.

While the Copernicus program is ambitious, the ESA plans on continuing the program far into the future. Once one of the sentinel satellites nears the end of its lifespan, the satellite will be decommissioned at replaced by a new one. This will ensure a continuous flow of information about planet. In this stage of the program, various European nations have already pledged a total of 7.5 billion Euros ($10.3 billion) for the project.

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