A virtually cloud-free Europe captured by MSG-1

MSG overview

Launched on 28 August 2002, the first Meteosat Second Generation (MSG-1) satellite became operational on 29 January 2004, when it was redesignated Meteosat-8.

The second MSG, Meteosat-9, was launched on 21 December 2005 and MSG-3 was launched on 5 July 2012. They were all launched on an Ariane 5 from the same launch site - Kourou in French Guiana.

The MSG satellites continually return detailed imagery of Europe, the North Atlantic and Africa every 15 minutes, for operational use by meteorologists.


The reason for duplication is simply to guarantee continuity of service in case of satellite failure. Weather satellites have become so crucial a part of our daily life that any long gap in service coverage has become inconceivable.

The launch of MSG-3 was timed for the smooth transition from the ageing Meteosat-8. The fourth satellite (MSG-4) is planned for a launch in 2015.

While retaining the drum-shaped design of their Meteosat predecessors, the new MSG spacecraft are two and a half times larger and have many extra imaging capabilities. Each one has a launch mass of two tonnes.

For more than 30 years, ESA has been building Europe's orbital weather satellites: the Meteosat series of geostationary spacecraft, the first of which was launched in 1977. The success of the early Meteosats led to the creation of the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, Eumetsat, in 1986.

ESA and Eumetsat continued to work together on the second generation of satellite, designed to deliver continuous weather images to European forecasters on an operational basis.

The MSG series will guarantee continuity of service through to around 2021.

The Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) will take the relay in 2017 from MSG-4 (Meteosat-11), the last of a series of four MSG satellites.

MSG-3 preparations

ESA was responsible for designing and developing the first MSG satellite, and for procuring the other three on behalf of Eumestat.

Meanwhile Eumetsat has responsibility for defining the payload based on user needs, procuring the ground segment and launchers, and operating the system.

A dust storm as seen by MSG-1

European forecasters and researchers benefit from the advanced data and images provided by Meteosat series.

These advance weather satellites provide key information and imagery for weather forecasting as well as other applications such as hydrology, agriculture, environmental studies as well as risk prevention and disaster warnings. The data collected are routinely used for the study of meteorology and climate change.

Last update: 11 March 2015

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