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N° 43–1997: Meteosat...20 years of weather observations from space

18 November 1997

On Monday 24 November 1997, 20 years after the launch of Meteosat-1, there will be a gathering in Darmstadt, Germany, of many of the scientists, engineers and managers who took Meteosat from an idea, conceived through long European debates and development phases, eventually into operation.

With the seventh Meteosat now in orbit, they will be looking back upon almost three decades of hard work and achievement:


  • Meteosat-1 launched in November 1997
  • Meteosat-2 in June 1981
  • Meteosat-3 in June 1988
  • Meteosat-4 in March 1989
  • Meteosat-5 in March 1991
  • Meteosat-6 in November 1993
  • Meteosat-7 in September 1997

Since the launch of the first Meteosat, 20 years of imagery and derived meteorological data have helped to significantly improve weather forecasting, with direct benefits to users such as air and marine transportation, as well as, for example the construction, energy, retail, agriculture and leisure industries. Lives have also been saved through the warning and earlier evacuation of populations threatened by hurricanes and other severe weather events.

ESA which developed the Meteosat programme and EUMETSAT that operates it, will jointly host an event that will commemorate more than 20 years of European achievement and cooperation. A short ceremony will commence at 16h00 in the EUMETSAT Headquarters, followed by a visit of ESA’s Operations Centre, ESOC. There will be photo opportunities during the ceremonies in the EUMETSAT and ESOC premises and journalists wishing to attend and meet many of the scientists, engineers and managers who played an important role in the Meteosat programme are invited to respond on the attached "faxback" form by 21 November 1997.

Background information on EUMETSAT and ESA

EUMETSAT is an inter-governmental organisation created in 1986. It has 17 European Member States (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Federal Republic of Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom). EUMETSAT’s primary objective is to establish, maintain and exploit European systems of operational meteorological satellites. Member States contribute financially to new programmes on a scale based on gross national product.

EUMETSAT operates its Meteosat satellites from a purpose-built control centre in Darmstadt. This centre is part of a ground system which includes a Primary Ground Station in Fucino, Italy, and data up-link stations in Bracknell (UK), Toulouse (France) and Rome.

EUMETSAT’s geostationary satellite programmes include the continuation of the current Meteosat system until at least the year 2000 with a second generation under development for the years until 2012. Preparatory work a new polar satellite system is also under way with a first launch scheduled early in the next century.

ESA’s (European Space Agency) role 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 application systems.

ESA has 14 Member States including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In addition, Canada has an agreement for the close cooperation with the Agency and participates in some of its programmes.

ESOC is the satellite control centre of ESA. It is responsible for the operation of all satellites, related ground stations and communications network. To date, ESOC has controlled over 30 ESA satellites and operated 14 satellites for national agencies. Thanks to advanced modern technology, ESOC can control over 15 satellites at the same time.

Further Information:
Further information about this event may be obtained from the following points of contact:

Mike Phillips
Head of Information Services
Tel: + 49 (0)
Fax: + 49 (0)

Jean-Paul Paillé
Public Relations Division
Tel: + 33 (0)
Fax: + 33 (0)