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N° 28–2012: Europe’s second polar-orbiting weather satellite is aloft

17 September 2012

The second Metop satellite was launched today from the Baikonur cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan, atop a Russian Soyuz launcher.

Metop-B will ensure the continuity of the weather and atmospheric monitoring service provided by its predecessor Metop-A, which has been circling the globe from pole to pole, 14 times a day, since 2006 and has now exceeded its design lifetime.

The Soyuz-Fregat vehicle lifted off at 16:28 GMT on Monday, 17 September. The Fregat upper stage manoeuvred to release the satellite into a polar orbit at an altitude of 810km some 69 minutes later, over the Kerguelen Archipelago, in the Indian Ocean.

Metop-B, developed for EUMETSAT’s polar satellite system, is now under the control of ESA’s Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

In the coming days, its systems will be tested before it is handed over to EUMETSAT, also based in Darmstadt, for six months of commissioning of its payload before entering routine service with Metop-A.

For ESA’s Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain: “The launch of this second Metop satellite has taken place about two and a half months after that of MSG-3; this is a perfect illustration of the vitality of Europe’s weather satellite programmes developed in cooperation between ESA and EUMETSAT. The fact that the next generation satellites in line are already being prepared by ESA shows the strong commitment of Member States of both organisations to continue and improve collecting data that are supporting not only weather-forecasting but also monitoring and understanding of climate change. Such services are demonstrating daily the economical and societal value of investing in space infrastructure.”

Volker Liebig, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, commented: “Metop-B will become operational while Metop-A is still active and performing well. This will ensure the continuity of the service without any risk of interruption in the data feed. Meanwhile, we are working with EUMETSAT to prepare the future with the second generation of European polar satellites.”

Unlike the Meteosat satellites, which are watching about half of our planet from a fixed vantage point almost 36 000 km above the Gulf of Guinea, Metops work at lower altitude and fly over the whole globe to provide additional data on the atmosphere.

Beyond weather monitoring, the Metop and Meteosat satellites are part of ESA’s effort on climate watch, which includes the experimental Earth Explorer satellites, to probe Earth and its atmosphere.

Three Earth Explorers have been launched since 2009 – the GOCE gravity mapper, the SMOS water satellite and the CryoSat ice satellite – and more are in preparation.

In 2013, ESA will start launching Sentinel satellites to monitor our environment and climate under the Global Monitoring for Environment & Security (GMES) initiative with the European Commission.

Notes for Editors

About Metop

The Metop satellites are Europe’s first operational meteorological satellites in polar orbit. They constitute the space segment of the EUMETSAT Polar System (EPS) delivering data for numerical weather prediction (NWP) – the basis of modern weather forecasting – and climate and environmental monitoring.

Flying at an altitude of 817 km, each Metop satellite carries the same sophisticated suite of instruments providing fine-scale global data, which can only be gathered in the low Earth orbit, such as vertical profiles of atmospheric temperature and moisture, wind speed and direction at the ocean surface, and some atmospheric trace gases.

Observations from Metop-A have significantly improved weather forecasts up to 10 days ahead. These forecasts are essential to protect life and limit damage to property, but they also benefit the weather-sensitive sectors of the European economy, especially energy, transportation, construction, agriculture and tourism.

The three Metop satellites, launched sequentially, will provide continuous data until 2020. The first satellite, Metop-A, was launched in 2006, and the third and final satellite, Metop-C, is scheduled for launch at the end of 2017.

ESA is responsible for the development of the three Metop satellites fulfilling EUMETSAT requirements, with major instruments provided by CNES and NOAA. ESA also carries out operations for the Launch and Early Orbit Phase to place the satellites in polar orbit, before handing them over to EUMETSAT for exploitation.

The Metop satellites are built by EADS Astrium as the prime contractor.

EUMETSAT develops all ground systems required to deliver products and services to users and to respond to their evolving needs, and operates the full system for the benefit of users. EUMETSAT also procures all Metop launch services.

The EPS programme is Europe’s contribution to the Initial Joint Polar System (IJPS), with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space.

ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 19 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxem-bourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, of whom 17 are Member States of the EU. ESA has Cooperation Agreements with nine other Member States of the EU and is negotiating an Agreement with the one remaining (Bulgaria). Poland is in the process of becoming ESA’s 20th Member State. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.

ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities. Today it launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space.

For further information, please contact:

ESA Media Relations Office

Communication Department

Tel: +33 1 53 69 72 99

Fax: +33 1 53 69 76 90

Email: media@esa.int

About EUMETSAT

The European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites is an intergovernmental organisation based in Darmstadt, Germany, currently with 26 European Member States (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom) and five Cooperating States (Bulgaria, Estonia, Iceland, Lithuania, and Serbia).

EUMETSAT operates the geostationary satellites Meteosat-8 and -9 over Europe and Africa, and Meteosat-7 over the Indian Ocean.

Metop-A, the first European polar-orbiting meteorological satellite, was launched in October 2006 and has been delivering operational data since 15 May 2007.

The Jason-2 ocean altimetry satellite, launched on 20 June 2008, added monitoring of sea state, ocean currents and sea level change to the missions that EUMETSAT conducts.

The data and products from EUMETSAT’s satellites are vital to weather forecasting and make a significant contribution to the monitoring of environment and the global climate.

Media Relations

EUMETSAT

Tel: +49 6151 807 7320

Fax: +49 6151 807 7321

Email : press@EUMETSAT.int

www.EUMETSAT.int

For further information:

ESA Media Relations Office
Tel: +33(0)1.5369.7299
Fax: +33(0)1.5369.7690



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