As preparations for the launch of ESA’s latest Earth Explorer continue on track, the team at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana has bid farewell to the Aeolus satellite as it was sealed from view in its Vega rocket fairing. Liftoff is set for 21 August at 21:20 GMT (23:20 CEST).
Since its arrival at the launch site in early July, Aeolus has been thoroughly tested and fuelled with hydrazine.
Like all of ESA’s Earth Explorer missions, Aeolus will fill a gap in our knowledge of how our planet works and show how novel technology can be used to observe Earth from space.
Aeolus carries one of the most sophisticated instruments ever to be put into orbit. The first of its kind, the Aladin instrument includes revolutionary laser technology to generate pulses of ultraviolet light that are beamed down into the atmosphere to profile the world’s winds – a completely new approach to measuring the wind from space.
Highlighted by the World Meteorological Organization, the lack of direct global wind measurements is one of the major deficits in the Global Observing System.
By filling this gap, Aeolus will give scientists the information they need to understand how wind, pressure, temperature and humidity are interlinked.
This pioneering mission will provide insight into how the wind influences the exchange of heat and moisture between Earth’s surface and the atmosphere – important aspects for understanding climate change.
While Aeolus is set to advance science, it will also benefit society.
Although weather forecasts have advanced considerably in recent years, Aeolus will provide global wind profiles to improve the accuracy even further.
In addition, its data will be used in air-quality models to improve forecasts of dust and other airborne particles that affect public health.
Developing new space technology is never easy and Aeolus has certainly been a long time in the making. But now this extraordinary satellite is safely sealed inside its rocket fairing ready for its ride into space.
The next major milestone on the road to launch will be the roll out to the launch pad and installation in the launch tower.