Although only launched a few months ago and still being commissioned, the new Sentinel-1A satellite, whose radar was supplied by Airbus DS, has already shown that it can be used to generate 3D models of Earth’s surface and will be able to closely monitor land and ice surface deformation.
The satellite reached its operational orbit on 7 August and just 12 days later, its radar images were used to generate ‘interferograms’ that map the topography of parts of Italy and Norway.
Synthetic aperture radar interferometry – or InSAR – is a technique where two or more satellite radar images acquired over the same area are combined to produce an interferogram.
These are important products for mapping topography to produce ‘digital elevation models’ and to monitor surface deformation caused by, for example, mining, earthquakes, volcanic activity, melting permafrost and glacial flow.
The rainbow-coloured fringes in these new images demonstrate the excellent phase stability of Sentinel-1A’s radar instrument and image processor, as well as that the satellite is in its correct orbit and ready for delivering data for applications and science.