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N° 48–1999: Europeans to build a series of satellites to contribute to the global wheather watch

6 December 1999

On 7 December 1999, the Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA), Antonio Rodotà, together with the Director of the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), Dr. Tillmann Mohr, will sign a contract with Matra Marconi Space for the development and production of a series of three Metop satellites.

Metop is the first European polar orbiting satellite dedicated to operational meteorology and climate monitoring. The first spacecraft of the series is scheduled for launch in 2003. The satellite will orbit at approximately 840 km, at a much lower altitude than the geostationary Meteosat weather satellites which are placed in equatorial orbit at approximately 36.000 km. The Meteosat family, also developed by ESA and now owned and operated by EUMETSAT, has been in space since the late 1970s. They will soon be replaced by Meteosat Second Generation. The Metop satellites will provide complementary sounding and imagery data, with a coverage of most of the globe every day.

Designed by Matra Marconi Space of France, together with a pan-European industrial consortium which includes, among others, Daimler Chrysler Aerospace of Germany, Matra Marconi Space of the United Kingdom, and Alenia Aerospazio of Italy, the Metop satellites are based on a platform derived from the ESA's Envisat and CNES's SPOT-5 platforms, both scheduled for launch in 2001.

Metop, which has a mass of 4.5 tonnes, carries twelve instruments which will provide highly valuable information for meteorologists as well as Earth Science researchers. In addition to a suite of established instruments provided by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an advanced Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer (IASI) is being developed in Europe which will significantly enhance the measurement capabilities compared with existing polar satellites. Another "first" is a sounder based on the occultation of GPS radio signals by the atmosphere, the GRAS instrument, being developed by ESA. Metop will also carry a five-channel Microwave Humidity Sounder (MHS), directly procured by EUMETSAT.. Other European instruments are new to operational use, but have been used with great success by weather centres since they were flown on ESA's ERS satellites.

Developed by ESA, the Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT) instrument will provide key information about the winds over the ocean surface and the improved Global Ozone Monitoring instrument (GOME-2) measures the ozone content of the atmosphere. Overall, the Metop data are expected to provide critical information for the improvement of Numerical Weather Prediction systems.

Metop forms part of the EUMETSAT Polar System, which in turn constitutes the European contribution to an International Joint Polar System (IJPS) operated together with the United States.

Note to Editors

ESA The European Space Agency has 14 Member States (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom). Its purpose is to provide for and promote, for exclusively peaceful purposes, cooperation among European States in space research and technology and their space applications with a view to their being used for scientific purposes and for space applications systems.

EUMETSAT is an intergovernmental organisation that establishes and maintains operational meteorological satellites for 17 European States (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom). From July 1999 EUMETSAT also has two Cooperating States, the Republic of Slovakia and the Republic of Hungary).

The images and data from Meteosat make a significant contribution to weather forecasting throughout Europe and neighbouring continents.

METOP: the roles of ESA and EUMETSAT The ESA Metop Programme includes the design and development of the prototype satellite through a joint team provided by the two organisations.

In addition to the coordination of user requirements and specification of the overall system, the EUMETSAT Polar System (EPS) Programme includes the procurement of the two recurring satellite models, the launch of all three satellites, the development of a ground segment and the operation of the complete system over the 14 year programme lifetime.

For further information please contact:
Franco Bonacina, Public Relations Division
Tel. : + 33 (0)1 5369 7155
Fax. : + 33 (0)1 5369 7690

Madeleine Pooley, Information Services Division
Tel. : + 49 (0)6151 807 606
Fax: : + 49 (0)6151 807 612

Note: This Press Release has been published in parallel by EUMETSAT