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Receiving & automated processing of Sentinel OLCI data


Please note that this is preliminary information, based on my own reception.  I found that using a separate hard-disk (not SSD!) for the HVS (High Volume Service) data resulted in less data loss, but I'm not using a RAMdisk at the moment.  I receive and process the Sentinel 3A data automatically, and then use the EUMETCastView program if further processing is required.  For the Sentinel 2A data, please see this page.  You an get the data either in near-real-time over EUMETCast, or you can download it from the Web using, for example, EUMETSAT's Copernicus Online Data Access (CODA) or ESA's Data Hub.

Downloading the data

You can view the data with either ESA's SNAP toolbox, or EUMETCastView.  The program EUMETCastView currently requires a .TAR archive format, but the data downloaded from the Web is in .Zip format, so a simple conversion step using the 7-zip file manager is required.  Briefly:

  1.  Download the file as a Zip.  In my case to:

  2. Unzip the file, important keeping the directory structure as it is in the Zip file, so all the .nc files live in:

  3. Right-click the S3A... directory, 7-zip, Add to archive...
  4. Select archive format .TAR, Compression level store, OK.
  5. A new file is created in .TAR format (here it was about 2.3 MB bigger than the .Zip).
  6. Add the download directory to the EUMETCastView directories, so in my case:

  7. Select the directory by clicking the box, and select the date with the calendar control in EUMETCastView - here 20170202 in the file name => 2017 Feb 02
  8. Click Reload segments.

Once you have the data in a .TAR format, you can use the EUMETCastView program, or the method outlined below for processing.  For an introduction to the EUMETCast View program, please see GEO Quarterly number 53.


Receiving the data over EUMETCast


From EUMETSAT obtain a licence for receiving the data, and register at the EO Portal for the "EUMETCast satellite".  Select Copernicus, Copernicus Sentinel-3 (High Volume Service), OLCI Global Level 1.  You will see that both "Full resolution NRT" and "Reduced resolution NRT" are available - full is 300 m resolution and reduced is 1.2 km resolution.  The image below is from the full-resolution NRT (near real-time) data.   There may  be a licence charge for commercial use of the data.  You will also need the eToken (USB dongle) and TelliCast software, and if you don't already have these EUMETSAT can supply at a nominal charge (100).



Basically, you need a "satellite TV" dish and LNB.  Within much of Europe an 85 cm dish will suffice, but outside the central region of the EUTELSAT 10A coverage, for example in Scotland, you may need a bigger dish.  Arne van Belle has tested a number of LNBs and the Inverto Black came top.

The HVS (high volume service) itself is a faster data-rate service than the BS (basic service), which means that a better signal is required. One consequence of this is that if your HVS signal is marginal, the receiver may get errors when the signal is low (rain, ice-crystals, high-winds etc.), and those errors will affect BS reception too, i.e. adding HVS capabilities may adversely affect your existing EUMETCast reception. If possible, use a second receiver for the HVS reception fed from a dual-output LNB (low noise block).

DVB-S2 Receiver

The receiver which takes the feed from and powers the LNB must be capable of DVB-S2 reception with VCM.  Don't worry about the acronyms, there is a list of suitable hardware on the EUMETSAT site in the Devices section.  If you already have a full-spec EUMETCast receiver that should be good enough, although you may prefer to have a second receiver for the HVS as mentioned above.  I use and recommend that Ayecka SR1 receiver as sold by the GEO Shop.  EUMETSAT provide installation guides here.

Note that if you are already receiving the EUMETCast Basic Service (BS) correctly, your may need to add the correct MODCOD settings for your Ayecka receiver, and you may wish to review your threshold settings.  There is more information here.


EUMETSAT will supply you with the TelliCast 2.14.2 software, and TelliCast installation is as I describe elsewhere on this site.  Note that the earlier TelliCast 2.4.4a software is no longer suitable for the High Volume Service, although it continues to work on the Basic Service.

TelliCast configuration

For Sentinel data, sent over the HVS, this is how you might configure your  cast-client-channels.inifile to receive just the Sentinel 3A full-resolution data channel.  My TelliCast software and the received files are on the separate HD, drive L:, in a directory L:\Tools\EUMETSAT.  You will also need to place the temporary files on the same partition as the complete files so that there is no need for TelliCast to copy the data when reception completes, it just needs to alter a directory entry.  Add an entry like the one below to the [parameters] section of your  cast-client.ini  file.

As supplied by EUMETSAT:



For my own customised version, I have different directory locations and names.  I also choose to put all the tmp_directory in a single location rather than specifying it per-channel.  This is not unreasonable when there are a small number of files.  It's easier for problem-solving, though, if you stick with the EUMETSAT standard if possible.  My own version:


In the cast-client_hvs-1.ini  file I specify the tmp_directory location for all channels:


Limiting the received data

A very simple way to control the amount of data stored is to run my TrimTree software as a scheduled task.  My scheduled task contains the lines:

TrimTree 3600m L:\Tools\EUMETCast\received *
TrimTree 450m L:\Tools\EUMETCast\tmp_2  *

Automated processing

Software required

Thorsten Miglus sent me some notes which I found most helpful as a starting point.  I'm using 64-bit Python.  Many thanks, Thorsten.

  1. Download Anaconda (Python 3.5, 64 bit) - it's ~400 MB:
  2.  Download Python packages:

    GDAL-2.0.3-cp35-cp35m-win_amd64.whl  (~12.7 MB)
    netCDF4-1.2.4-cp35-cp35m-win_amd64.whl  (~2.5 MB)
  3. Install Anaconda.  As the package occupies some 1.8 GB I chose to install it off the limited space of the SSD system drive, into:  D:\Tools\Anaconda3
  4. Install packages with pip.exe
    pip.exe resides in the folder Anaconda3\Scripts
    pip install GDAL-2.1.2-cp35-cp35m-win_amd64.whl
    pip install netCDF4-1.2.4-cp35-cp35m-win_amd64.whl

You will also need a program to "untar" the files - and I recommend the 7-Zip program which you can download here.  I installed mine in: C:\Tools\7-zip.  For performing the histogram equalisation step, I use ImageMagick, which you can download here.

Editing the Python file if required

Simon Proud provided a Python 2.7 script which I was easily able to get working under Python 3.5.  My current version of the script is in my Sentinel Tools Zip file which you can download.  You might want to play with the band numbers, and I would appreciate any feedback.  I hope I haven't broken anything in Simon's script.  Many thanks, Simon.

Command Script

The script has been developed from the ideas and sample scripts posted on the MSG-1 Yahoo group by Ernst Lobsiger, Thorsten Miglus and others.  It is intended to be run on a routine basis, and here I run it every 30 minutes (set to start at 00:14, and to repeat indefinitely, in the Task Scheduler).

The command script has been developed to be a little more general purpose (you could process the reduced resolution files, for example), so it's split into to parts, the first of which identifies the files to be processed, and the main processing part is a subroutine called from the file selection part.  While you don't have to understand every line of the script, you will need to edit the script (e.g. with NotePad) to customise it for your location.

The first few lines define a few variables, such as "source_dir", where the full-resolution Sentinel .TAR files live, the "proc_dir" where temporary files will live (note this is a separate hard-disk to the reception hard-disk, and it is not an SSD).  Finally, "untar" points to the location of the program which will unpack the TAR (tape archive) files into the multiple NetCDF files they contain.  The source directory is then scanned for Sentinel full resolution files, with each detected file name put into the variable "%%G" and used to call the MakeImage routine.

The MakeImage routine then parses the supplied file name down into year/month/day hours/minute/seconds time fields, and creates a directory to receive the processed images.  "image_dir" includes a hard-coded string which you will need to edit for the root of the processed image tree.  If the 3-minute segment has already been processed there is nothing further to do, and the MakeImage routine simply exits, and the main FOR loop skips to the next Sentinel file.

Next the .TAR file is unpacked, unpacking only the desired bands (9, 6 and 4 in this case), defined by the strings "*Oa09* *Oa06* *Oa04* -r" at the end of the untar command.  A file name for the TIFF output, and for the PNG output from the Pythin script is defined (the TIFF file isn't used here, but you might like to play with that option later), and the Python script is called to convert the three segments bands into a .PNG image.  Next I use ImageMagick to perform a histogram equalisation on the image - you may want to tweak this to your own taste (for example, I added a "-sharpen 0.7" which improves the JPG images to my eye), and finally any temporary files created are deleted.

At the moment, I keep both the PNG and JPG files, but you might like to add a line deleting the .PNG if you wish.

Update: 2016-Dec-09 - Add processing of ERR (reduced resolution) files, helpful as thumbnails, and adds logging of last data processed.

Contents of ProcessSentinel.cmd

SET proc_dir=F:\Sentinel\3A\Process
SET untar=C:\Tools\7-zip\7z
SET source_dir=L:\Tools\EUMETCast\received\Sentinel-3A-EFR
ECHO Processing files in %source_dir%
  FOR /F %%G in ('dir /B %source_dir%\*E?R____20*.SEN3.tar') DO (
  CALL :MakeImage %%G

SET source_dir=L:\Tools\EUMETCast\received\Sentinel-3A-ERR
ECHO Processing files in %source_dir%
  FOR /F %%G in ('dir /B %source_dir%\*E?R____20*.SEN3.tar') DO (
  CALL :MakeImage %%G


REM ==================================
REM    Main processing subroutine
REM ==================================
REM Typical file name starts: 


ECHO Processing %1
SET source=%1
SET res=%source:~9,3%
SET yyyy=%source:~16,4%
SET mm=%source:~20,2%
SET dd=%source:~22,2%
SET hh=%source:~25,2%
SET nn=%source:~27,2%
SET ss=%source:~29,2%
SET pass=%source:~0,-4%

TITLE Processing Sentinel data from %yyyy%-%mm%-%dd% at %hh%:%nn%
SET image_dir=F:\Sentinel\3A\Images\%yyyy%\%mm%\%dd%
IF NOT EXIST %image_dir% MKDIR %image_dir%
SET jpg_image=%image_dir%\%res%_%yyyy%-%mm%-%dd%-%hh%%nn%-%ss%-S3A-r9g6b4.jpg

IF EXIST %jpg_image% (
  @ECHO Image already processed %jpg_image%

IF NOT EXIST %proc_dir%\%pass% (
  @ECHO Unpacking TAR to indivdual files
  %untar% x -aoa %source_dir%\%source% -o%proc_dir% *Oa09* *Oa06* *Oa04* -r

SET tif_image=%image_dir%\%res%_%yyyy%-%mm%-%dd%-%hh%%nn%-%ss%-S3A-r9g6b4.tif
SET png_image=%image_dir%\%res%_%yyyy%-%mm%-%dd%-%hh%%nn%-%ss%-S3A-r9g6b4.png
@ECHO Converting files to PNG image
D:\Tools\Anaconda3\python.exe  C:\Tools\Admin\  %proc_dir%\%pass%  %png_image%  PNG

ECHO Converting PNG to JPG
PUSHD C:\Tools\ImageMagick-7.0.3-Q16
magick.exe convert %png_image% -equalize -sharpen 0.7 %jpg_image%

IF EXIST %jpg_image% (
  DEL /Q %proc_dir%\%pass%\*.* 
  RMDIR /S /Q %proc_dir%\%pass%

ECHO Processed Sentinel data from %yyyy%-%mm%-%dd% %hh%:%nn%,^
 processed on %DATE% at %TIME% > C:\Tools\Admin\ProcessSentinel.log

Manual processing

Once you have seen from the automated snapshot that one or more image segments is of interest, you may wish to process it further.  There is a program from ESA named SNAP which may help, and one from Hugo named EUMETCastView which a number of people use, the latest release is here.

Where to get help?

Many users belong to the MSG-1 Yahoo group, and I recommend you join that group.  Articles on Earth Observation and the techniques used can be found in the informative GEO Quarterly, published to members electronically and once a year in hard copy.  A great way to share your images!  Contact Les Hamilton with your images and notes about reception and processing to help others.

Sample Result

Here is a sample of the Copernicus Sentinel 3A data, automatically processed by the method above, with some post-processing in Paint Shop Pro 10 to crop, resize and slightly sharpen the image.  It shows The Netherlands, south from The Hague and Rotterdam.


Alerted by a Tweet from @DundeeSat, here's Sicily showing a faint plume from a snowy Mt. Etna. 2016-Dec-02 09:38 Copernicus Sentinel 3A.

Copyright © David Taylor, Edinburgh   Last modified: 2017 Feb 11 at 15:00