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The principal aim of the SLSTR instrument mission on-board SENTINEL-3 is to maintain continuity with the (A)ATSR series of instruments. The design supports this by incorporating the basic functionality of AATSR, with the addition of some new, more advanced, features. These include a wider swath, new channels (including two channels dedicated to fire detection), and higher resolution in some channels.

The (A)ATSR provided a reference Sea Surface Temperature dataset for other satellite missions and the SLSTR design is based on the reuse of AATSR concepts with existing and qualified technologies. The SLSTR has been developed to retrieve global coverage sea surface skin temperatures with zero bias and an uncertainty of ± 0.3 K for a 5° by 5° latitude–longitude area, having a temporal stability of 0.1 K/decade.