Darmstadt/Paris, 21 September 2012 - Yesterday, at 18:30 local time EUMETSAT took control of Metop-B operations, following the three-day Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) conducted by the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) of the European Space Agency (ESA). The handover follows the launch of Metop-B on 17 September.
Since Monday evening, teams at ESA's European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, have been busy day and night during the Launch and Early Orbit Phase. As planned, they checked all of Metop-B's systems and ensured that its solar array was deployed and oriented towards the Sun to provide crucial power to run the satellite and its 11 scientific instruments.
On Day One, the ESA Flight Operations teams checked the power, temperatures, software, telecommunication links and activated a number of systems. On Day Two, they deployed five payload instrument antennas. On Day Three, with Metop-B in a near-circular orbit at around 800 km altitude and 99 degrees inclination, the teams conducted one thruster burn to fine tune the orbit and get into 'phase' with the orbit of Metop-A - and to prepare for handover to Eumetsat on Thursday.
After the handover, work began immediately on the in-orbit verification of Metop-B, for a six-week period, during which all Metop-B's 11 instruments will be switched on in sequence.
The European instruments on board Metop-B will be activated in the following order:
- GOME-2 ultraviolet spectrometer for ozone monitoring five days after launch
- ASCAT advanced scatterometer one week after launch
- GRAS instrument for atmospheric sounding using radio-occultation of signals from the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) one week after launch
- MHS microwave humidity sounder (three and a half weeks after launch
- IASI infrared atmospheric sounder six weeks after launch
Altogether, these instruments will deliver measurements of vertical profile of temperature, humidity and trace gases in the atmosphere, the wind field at the surface of the ocean, and soil moisture.
The Metop-B in-orbit check out activities will use the comprehensive EUMETSAT Polar System (EPS) ground segment. They will be coordinated by the EUMETSAT Control Centre located at EUMETSAT's headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany, with the support of ESA, the French space agency CNES, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and industry.
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 user and system requirements defined by EUMETSAT. 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 commissioning and exploitation. EUMETSAT develops all ground systems required to deliver products and services to users and to respond to their evolving needs, procures launch services and operates the full system for the benefit of users.
The EPS programme is Europe's contribution to the Initial Joint Polar System (IJPS), with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
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 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.
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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, Luxembourg, 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.
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