June 22, 2010

Europe Launching Two-Part Weather Satellite

Europe is launching its next-generation of polar orbiting weather satellites in a two-spacecraft configuration, according to a recent BBC News report.

Eumetsat, the organization that operates Europe's weather observatories, took the decision at its latest council meeting in Rome.

The organization will allow additional instruments to be flown, producing even more data for numerical weather prediction models.

Eumetsat Polar System, Second Generation (EPS-2G), will be a multi-billion dollar program.

The cost is likely to be comparable to the current system that costs about $2.9 billion.

The two-spacecraft configuration and the possible instrument payloads will be considered in the initial feasibility study.

The current system launched in 2006 and is just one platform known as Metop-A.

Two reserve satellites, Metop-B and Metop-C, are built and held in storage.  They are likely to get launched into orbit in 2012 and 2016 to give continuity to the program.

Metop-A is generally regarded as having been a remarkable step forward in monitoring capability for Europe.  It was the first European weather satellite to circle the Earth's poles. 

Eumetsat's familiar Meteosat class of observation sits in geostationary orbits (GEO) about 22,000 miles above the equator.  The Meteosats can image half of the Earth's surface every 15 minutes.

However, Metop takes high-resolution pictures of the entire planet over a much longer span of time, between one and three days.

Its 12-instrument payload monitors variables like temperature, humidity, wind velocity, ozone cover and atmospheric chemistry.

Metop-A played a critical role in assessing the progress of the ash plume from Iceland's Eyjafjallajoekull eruption in April.

The latest Eumetsat council approved the scope of the next-generation of the Meteosat series.  This will fly a two-satellite configuration for the first time.

Both of the new programs will be developed in conjunction with the European Space Agency.


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