Latest weather satellite goes into orbit

The latest weather satellite in Europe’s highly successful Meteosat second-generation series has just gone into orbit after lifting off on an Ariane space rocket yesterday evening.

It is now being moved into its precise position before it can provide continuous observations of the weather from space to Meteorological agencies across Europe and beyond.

MSG-3, or Meteosat-10 as it will be called once it starts sending images back to Earth, will be stationed at 0° longitude, over the Gulf of Guinea on the Equator, in geostationary orbit, where its speed precisely matches the Earth’s rotation, keeping a constant eye on developing weather.

ESA’s Director General, Jean-paul Jacques Dordain said: “This launch allows EUMETSAT and ESA to continue providing Europeans with high quality observations of weather from space, with MSG-3 being especially valuable in rapid detection and warning of extreme weather situations.”

“These programmes have ensured high-quality weather forecasts, the successive generations have improved these forecasts and they have brought tangible economic benefits for and improving the daily life of every European.”

The primary instrument on Meteosat-10 is the Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager, or Seviri, which monitors of developing meteorological systems by spinning the earth, line by line, to build a picture that can then be used by weather forecasters. It collects information in 12 different wavelengths, tracing information such as cloud development, temperature and movement as well as measures of humidity and temperature through the atmosphere.

Dr John Eyre, head of satellite applications at the Met Office, who contribute to the funding of the Meteosat programme, said: “Meteosat gives you a very good view of the weather happening right now. It gives you movie loops of images showing you the clouds as they develop. It’s for what we call ‘nowcasting‘, and we can use that information to extrapolate forwards for the next few hour.”

The two currently operational MSGs are used in distinct ways. Meteosat-9 builds images of the entire field of view – a full Earth disc – in 15 minutes, while Meteosat-8 rapidly scans a smaller area covering Europe, to provide imagery in just five minutes.

This allows the weather agencies to better follow the development of powerful and potentially dangerous thunderstorms in Eumetsat member states.

About Meteosat Second Generation

MSG is a joint programme undertaken by ESA and EUMETSAT. ESA is responsible for the development of satellites as defined by EUMETSAT. ESA also performs the Launch and Early Orbit Phase operations required to place the spacecraft in geostationary orbit, before handing it over to EUMETSAT for 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.

In addition to its weather-watching mission and collection of climate records, MSG-3 has two secondary payloads.

The Global Earth Radiation Budget sensor will measure the amount of solar energy that is radiated back into space to determine how much energy is introduced into the climate system and to provide insights into the atmospheric circulation between the day and night sides. A Search & Rescue transponder will turn the satellite into a relay for distress signals from emergency beacons.

The last of the series, MSG-4, is planned for launch in 2015.

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