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Satellite set to launch huge earth data collection

The European Space Agency (ESA) will launch the first Sentinel satellite from French Guiana on Thursday as it begins the world's largest civil earth-observation project.

Sentinel-1A is the first of a string of satellites to be launched over the next few years for the Copernicus program. The project's aims to gather a large volume of information on the state of the earth by providing regular satellite images and data to help scientists and decision makers better understand and respond to changes in the environment.

Each Sentinel mission is based on a constellation of two satellites. Sentinel-1A is part of the mission that will image land and oceans using precise radar, enabling the pair to acquire imagery irrespective of the weather.

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Sentinel-1A will soon be joined by Sentinel-1B in 2015 and together they be able to obtain a radar image of anywhere on the planet within six days.

Ramond Torres, ESA's Sentinel-1 project manager, told CNBC that "This is a big step because from this moment on we are going to do it systematically and operationally giving the data every single morning to the users so that's what makes it a big, big difference."

ESA–S. Corvaja, 2014

Other satellites will provide data on the Earth's land surface and ocean properties, as well as atmospheric monitoring which will monitor air quality and the ozone. Lift off for Sentinel-1A is scheduled for 21:02 GMT on Thursday.

Torres said that the Copernicus project will help with "the monitoring of coastal areas with the ship traffic, the monitoring of the oil spills, the possibility of controlling also shipping routes in the Northern Hemisphere."

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He added Sentinel will be able to "monitor the variations of land surface down to the millimetre." Such data, Torres told CNBC, would help with the monitoring of the effects of volcanoes or earthquakes on the earth's terrain and structure.

The EU's overall Copernicus budget is around 4.3 billion euros ($5.9 billion) for the period 2014 to 2020, but the Union stated that the benefits arising from Corpernicus – job creation, innovation, growth – were estimated at 30 billion euros through 2030.

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