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N° 6–1998: ESA and EUMETSAT give green light to start METOP*/EPS**

2 February 1998

At a meeting of participants on 12 December 1997, ESA Member States took a major step forward concerning the METOP Programme by declaring it started and, subject to an adequate commitment by EUMETSAT in January confirmed their intention to proceed with industrial activities. The relevant budgets were approved, but blocked pending the EUMETSAT decision.

Subsequently, on 28 January 1998, the EUMETSAT Council made very positive decisions, in particular with respect to the financial commitments towards the METOP-1 project.

Resulting from this, two days later on Friday 30 January, the ESA Earth Observation Programme Board gave its final go-ahead on the 1997 and 1998 budgets, thereby releasing the industrial work.

Consequently, ESA and EUMETSAT have now released an Authorisation To Proceed, to the European industry for an initial amount of 115 Million ECU's (90 from ESA and 25 from EUMETSAT) allowing all planned activities to start on the METOP spacecraft.

The foreseen tasks include at present procurement of long lead equipment items and start of work by all contractors. These activities will run until end of September 1998, by which time the release of the full EPS Programme is anticipated by the EUMETSAT Council.

The instruments on METOP will produce high-resolution images, vertical temperature and humidity profiles, and temperatures of the land and ocean surface on a global basis. Also on board the satellites will be instruments for monitoring ozone and wind flow over the oceans. This instrument payload will be of significant value to meteorologists and other scientists, particularly those studying the global climate. In addition to benefits to weather forecasting and climate studies from the EPS system, there will be a contribution to high quality employment opportunities in the European space industry.

The first launch is planned for 2003 as part of an international joint system in cooperation with the USA.

* METOP is a series of three meteorological operational polar orbiting satellites, the first of which, METOP-1 is the prototype

* * EPS stands for EUMETSAT Polar System, which comprises the space segment, launches and operations during 14 years related to the METOP satellites. It is planned to be implemented in cooperation with ESA, CNES (the french national space center) and NOAA (the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

For further information, please contact : ESA Public Relations Division
Tel : +33(0)1.53.69.71.55
Fax: + 33(0)1.53.69.76.90


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