October 13, 2006
Satellite launch is milestone in U.S.-European cooperation
Tuesday’s scheduled launch of MetOp, the first European operational meteorological satellite in polar orbit, is being heralded as a major milestone in the U.S. - European Initial Joint Polar System (IJPS).
The IJPS is an agreement between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and EUMETSAT to coordinate their respective satellite programmes to lessen gaps in coverage of weather and climate conditions. The first MetOp satellite will be launched from the Baikonur Space Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The MetOp satellite series consists of three spacecraft, including the one poised for launch, which are designed to provide operational data until 2020 complementing the information provided by the Meteosat geostationary satellites, already operated by EUMETSAT. Under the IJPS, the MetOp satellites, flying in a mid-morning polar orbit of the globe, will carry key NOAA instruments. NOAA’s polar-orbiting satellites, the current NOAA-18 and the future NOAA-N Prime, carry a EUMETSAT instrument in an afternoon orbit. In the future, EUMETSAT will continue to provide coverage of the mid-morning orbit, being the sole long-term data provider for Europe and the U.S. in this orbit, while the U.S. covers the afternoon and early-morning orbits. Together, EUMETSAT’s MetOp and NOAA’s polar satellites will provide global data for
improving forecasts of severe weather and disaster mitigation and for monitoring the environment.
“A launch success on Tuesday will indeed be a significant milestone for global operational meteorology”, says Dr. Lars Prahm, Director-General of EUMETSAT, “and the agreed partnership between the United States and Europe will jointly ensure a continuous flow of vital data from polar orbit. It is also a first step into the direction of a future possible Joint Polar System with the United States once all three MetOp satellites have been launched. ”
MetOp flies at an altitude of about 837 km (i.e. approximately 43 times closer to Earth than a geostationary satellite). The global data sets gathered by the MetOp satellites will significantly improve the way the Earth’s weather, climate and environment are observed; in particular they are expected to significantly improve operational meteorology through the provision of additional accurate data for Numerical Weather Prediction Models.
All MetOp satellites have been developed by a joint EUMETSAT and European Space Agency (ESA) team, with EADS Astrium as the prime contractor. A total of 11 instruments are aboard the MetOp satellites, which are provided by EUMETSAT, ESA, the French Space Agency (CNES), and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites is an intergovernmental organisation with currently 19 European Member States (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom) and 10 Cooperating States (Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the Czech Republic).
EUMETSAT is currently operating Meteosat-6, -8 and 9 over Europe and Africa, and Meteosat-5 – and soon Meteosat-7 – over the Indian Ocean.
The data, products and services from EUMETSAT’s satellites make a significant contribution to weather forecasting and to the monitoring of the global climate.