Sentinel-1A. Credit: ESA

Sentinel-1A.
Credit: ESA

European Space Agency engineers reported today that a solar panel on the Copernicus Sentinel-1A satellite was hit by a millimeter-size particle in orbit on August 23.

The strike produced a sudden small power reduction and slight changes in the orientation and the orbit of the satellite.

Preliminary investigation

“Following a preliminary investigation, the operations team at ESA’s control center in Darmstadt, Germany suspected a possible impact by space debris or micrometeoroid on the solar wing,” according to a ESA statement.

Engineers decided to activate the board cameras on the spacecraft to acquire pictures of the array. These cameras were originally carried to monitor the deployment of the satellite’s solar wings just a few hours after launch in April 2014, and were not intended to be used afterwards.

Sentinel-1A’s solar array before and after the impact of a millimeter-size particle on the second panel. The damaged area has a diameter of about 40 centimeters, which is consistent on this structure with the impact of a fragment of less than 5 millimeters in size. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Sentinel-1A’s solar array before and after the impact of a millimeter-size particle on the second panel. The damaged area has a diameter of about 40 centimeters, which is consistent on this structure with the impact of a fragment of less than 5 millimeters in size.
Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Solar panel strike

Following their switch-on, one camera provided a picture that clearly shows the strike on the solar panel.

This event has no effect on the satellite’s routine operations, which continue normally, ESA stated.

The Sentinel-1 satellites, part of the European Union’s Copernicus Program, are operated by ESA on behalf of the European Commission.

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