Copernicus is a European system for monitoring the Earth in support of European policy. It includes the Sentinel-3 satellite mission which provides reliable and up-to-date measurements of the ocean, atmosphere, cryosphere, and land. To fulfil mission requirements, two Sentinel-3 satellites are required on-orbit at the same time to meet revisit and coverage requirements in support of Copernicus Services. The inter-unit consistency is critical for the mission as more S3 platforms are planned in the future. A few weeks after its launch in April 2018, the Sentinel-3B satellite was manoeuvred into a tandem configuration with its operational twin Sentinel-3A already in orbit. Both satellites were flown only thirty seconds apart on the same orbit ground track to optimise cross-comparisons. This tandem phase lasted from early June to mid October 2018 and was followed by a short drift phase during which the Sentinel-3B satellite was progressively moved to a specific orbit phasing of 140° separation from the sentinel-3A satellite. In this paper, an output of the European Space Agency (ESA) Sentinel-3 Tandem for Climate study (S3TC), we provide a full methodology for the homogenisation and harmonisation of the two Ocean and Land Colour Instruments (OLCI) based on the tandem phase. Homogenisation adjusts for unavoidable slight spatial and spectral differences between the two sensors and provide a basis for the comparison of the radiometry. Persistent radiometric biases of 1–2% across the OLCI spectrum are found with very high confidence. Harmonisation then consists of adjusting one instrument on the other based on these findings. Validation of the approach shows that such harmonisation then procures an excellent radiometric alignment. Performed on L1 calibrated radiances, the benefits of harmonisation are fully appreciated on Level 2 products as reported in a companion paper. Whereas our methodology aligns one sensor to behave radiometrically as the other, discussions consider the choice of the reference to be used within the operational framework. Further exploitation of the measurements indeed provides evidence of the need to perform flat-fielding on both payloads, prior to any harmonisation. Such flat-fielding notably removes inter-camera differences in the harmonisation coefficients. We conclude on the extreme usefulness of performing a tandem phase for the OLCI mission continuity as well as for any optical mission to which the methodology presented in this paper applies (e.g., Sentinel-2). To maintain the climate record, it is highly recommended that the future Sentinel-3C and Sentinel-3D satellites perform tandem flights when injected into the Sentinel-3 time series.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited