[Satellite News 02-01-12] With Eumetsat’s Metop-B weather satellite now past its final checks with manufacturer Astrium and scheduled for transport to the Baikonur cosmodrome to be launched in May, Eumetsat Director General Alain Ratier said the Metop program is progressing much smoother than expected.
“The first of the Metop series, Metop-A, has already exceeded all our expectations, and the data its instruments provide have made a major contribution to improving Numerical Weather Prediction models, which is the basis for today’s weather forecasts,” Ratier said. “By helping to improve the weather forecasts and severe weather warnings delivered by the national weather services across Europe, Metop-A helps save lives and limit damage to property. It also delivers high benefits for transport, agriculture, energy, tourism, climate policy and environmental protection.”
Metop-B is the second of three identical Metop satellites. When combined with dedicated ground infrastructure, the three satellites form the Eumetsat Polar System (EPS). Metop-B will join its predecessor Metop-A, launched in 2006, in a ‘mid-morning’ polar orbit, 850 kilometers above the Earth.
Eumetsat will operate both satellites simultaneously until the end of Metop-A’s lifespan. Metop-C, the third of the series, is scheduled for launch in 2017 at the end of Metop-B’s nominal lifespan. Each of the three satellites has a nominal lifetime of five years, with a six-month overlap to provide continuous long-term data sets for use in operational meteorology and climate and environmental monitoring.
Each satellite carries eight instruments capable of taking measurements of the atmosphere. These instruments also were designed to observe ocean and continental surfaces, providing measurements of wind at the ocean surface, ice, snow and soil moisture.
CNRM-GAME Numerical Weather Prediction Group Deputy Director Florence Rabier said she has been impressed by how Metop-A observations were being used by the scientific community. “The various instruments on board the satellite provide a wealth of invaluable data for meteorologists, atmospheric scientists and climatologists in Europe, and all over the world,” she said.
“The vital role of Metop-A data in weather forecasting is best illustrated by a recent U.K. Met Office estimate of the impact of various data sources on Numerical Weather Prediction models, in which Metop-A accounts for the highest level of contribution at over 24 percent,” Eumetsat said in a statement.
The group added that when this analysis was focused on the contribution of data from individual satellites to Numerical Weather Prediction models, Metop-A’s contribution was nearly 40 percent. “This is more than double the contribution of other individual weather satellites, and highlights the importance of investment in new, more technologically advanced satellites such as Metop, and NASA’s recently launched SUOMI NPP.”
A consortium led by EADS Astrium builds the Metop satellites within the framework of a partnership between Eumetsat and the European Space Agency (ESA). ESA is responsible for the development of the space segment, while Eumetsat is responsible for the development of the overall system, the ground segment and operating the satellites over the mission’s duration. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and French Space Agency CNES also provide some of the Metop payload’s key instruments.