February 27, 2011

Europe Planning New Weather Satellite System

Europe has been given the go-ahead with the $4.6 billion project to build a next-generation weather satellite system.

Eumetsat said on Friday that all participating nations had now agreed to the program and its financing.

The new system should bring a change in weather forecasting capability, guaranteeing European access to space-acquired meteorological data until at least the late 2030s.

Eumetsat Director-General Dr. Lars Prahm welcomed the news and told BBC:  "It was not an easy process and the overall financial situation in Europe certainly did not help but I am very pleased to see that all member states have now approved a vital program which will assure the future of Eumetsat's geostationary observations over Europe, Africa and the Atlantic Ocean over the next few decades."

The Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) program will be one of the biggest and most complex space projects that Europe has ever taken on.

The European Space Agency (ESA) will act as the R&D partner, developing the technology.  The former will then operate the space platforms.

The MTG comprises of six satellites, with the first spacecraft likely to be ready to enter service in 2018.

The platforms will be of two types: an imaging spacecraft to picture weather systems, and a sounding spacecraft.

They will be quite unlike their predecessors, which are the second-generation satellites (MSG) that provide weather data currently.

MSG satellites are spin-stabilized and build up their images as they rotate across the field of view.

The MTG spacecraft will look more like standard telecommunications platforms.

Their image data will have a much higher resolution and will come down to the ground in a fraction of the time.

The new spacecraft will also carry many innovations that should translate into more accurate and more detailed weather forecasts.

One key development is an Infrared Sounding Instrument that has been pioneered on Europe's Metop polar-orbiting Earth-observation spacecraft. 

The instrument will be able to detect layers of moisture in the atmosphere before they have developed into weather systems.


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