First instrument aboard MetOp-A successfully switched on

25 October 2006

The first instrument aboard MetOp-A has been switched on and has successfully acquired data. The primary purpose of the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit-A (AMSU-A) instrument, which detects radiated thermal energy emitted by the air in different levels in the atmosphere, is to provide high temperature sounding data even in cloudy conditions.

The data acquired by AMSU-A in its fifteen channels can be seen in the image above. In the lower part of the first stripe on the left, Band 1, the Baja California coastline is visible, in the middle part of the same band the Antarctic continent can be seen and in the upper part the coast of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula are visible. The images shown for the other bands correspond to the temperature of air at different heights within the atmosphere.

To fulfil its ambitious mission, MetOp-A incorporates a comprehensive remote-sensing payload consisting of a set of new-generation European instruments supplied by ESA, the European Meteorological Satellite Organisation (EUMESAT) and the French Space Agency (CNES), plus a set of ‘heritage’ instruments provided by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA provided the AMSU-A instrument. The AMSU-A instrument, manufactured by Northrop Grumman of Azusa, California, under contract to NASA, will undergo functional and performance checks during the coming weeks.

MetOp lift-off
MetOp launch

The first of three satellites developed under a joint programme being carried out by ESA and EUMESAT, MetOp-A was successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 19 October 2006 by a Russian Soyuz 2/Fregat rocket operated by the Euro-Russian company Starsem. ESA handed control of MetOp-A over to EUMETSAT on 22 October following the satellite’s successful completion of the launch and early orbit phase.

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