Reaching orbit

MSG-1 launch

The three MSG missions launched so far were all taken into orbit by an Ariane 5 from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The latest, MSG-3, was launched on 5 July 2012.

The heavy-lift launcher places the two-tonne MSG satellites in an initial 'parking' or geostationary transfer orbit. This is a highly elliptical (or elongated) orbit intermediate between geostationary and low-Earth orbit (LEO), with an apogee of approximately 35 944 km and a perigee of just 580 km.

From this orbit, the satellites use their onboard engine to gradually circularise its orbit over a period of weeks until it reached its final geostationary orbit. This operation is overseen by ESA's European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, under Eumetsat contract.

Last update: 6 July 2012

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