Weather satellite successfully launched

January 7th, 2019, Published in Articles: PositionIT, Featured: PositionIT

Weather satellite MetOp-C is in orbit after being launched in November 2018. Built by Airbus, the satellite is the last of the first generation of EUMETSAT Polar System (EPS) series of three polar-orbiting satellites. MetOp-C is joining its predecessors MetOp-A and -B in an 817 km orbit. Both predecessors have exceeded their designated lifetime by far. The MetOp programme has helped improve the accuracy of weather forecasts from 12 hours to 10 days ahead. The MetOp satellites have been developed by Airbus for the European Space Agency (ESA) and EUMETSAT, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, and are part of a joint Europe-US cooperation.

The Metop-C satellite (Credit: ESA)

Initially, the plan was for each satellite to replace its predecessor, however, the performance of the first two MetOp satellites allowed a dual operation of MetOp-A and -B with a significant contribution to the reduction of Day-1 forecasting errors. It is expected that this trend will continue with the third spacecraft now in orbit.

Each MetOp satellite carries 12 instruments (ten for MetOp-C), making the system very versatile. Two of the instruments have been built by Airbus: the Microwave Humidity Sounder (MHS) and the Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT). The MHS measures water vapour near the Earth’s surface, and as well as flying on the MetOp spacecraft, two additional microwave humidity sounders are already flying on US NOAA satellites, delivering matching data from a different orbit to enhance weather models. The ASCAT is an active radar instrument which measures wind speed and direction over the open sea. It also provides data for ice and snow coverage as well as surface moisture. ASCAT will scan two 500 km wide corridors and can provide almost global coverage within 24 hours.

MetOp also monitors the ozone layer in the stratosphere, as well as relaying meteorological measurements collected by boats, buoys and research stations. MetOp-A and -B also feature a receiver to relay signals sent by people in distress. In addition to the expected benefits on weather forecasting, MetOp-C will continue the time series of data begun by MetOp-A, and this long-term dataset is crucial for climate monitoring.

The MetOp-SG (second generation) spacecraft currently under development will provide continuity and enhancement of meteorological data with improved spectral and spatial resolution compared to the measurements currently provided by the first generation of MetOp satellites. A complete range of observations will be realised using ten different instruments, covering ultra-violet, visible, infrared and microwave spectral bands. MetOp-SG is expected to go into operation from 2021 onwards.

Contact Corné Eloff, Airbus Defence and Space, Tel 011 266-2614, corne.eloff@airbus.com

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