Lifted into orbit on a Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 22 August 2018, ESA’s Aeolus satellite will measure winds around the globe and play a key role in our quest to better understand the workings of our atmosphere. Importantly, this novel mission will also improve weather forecasting. The Aeolus carries one of the most sophisticated instruments ever to be put into orbit. The first of its kind, Aladin includes revolutionary laser technology to generate pulses of ultraviolet light that are beamed down into the atmosphere to profile the world’s winds – a completely new approach to measuring the wind from space.
Prior to liftoff, the satellite had been at the spaceport for around six weeks being tested, fuelled, encased in the Vega rocket fairing, rolled out to the launch pad and hoisted into the launch tower. Vega lifted off at 21:20 GMT (23:20 CEST, 18:20 local time) on 22 August. Some 55 minutes later, the upper stage delivered Aeolus into orbit and contact was established through the Troll ground station in Antarctica at 00:30 CEST on 23 August. The satellite is being controlled from ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. Controllers will spend the next few months carefully checking and calibrating the mission as part of its commissioning phase.