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ESA hands over control of the Metop-B weather satellite to EUMETSAT

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Yesterday, at 18:30 local time EUMETSAT took control of Metop-B operations, following the three-day Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) conducted by the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) of the European Space Agency (ESA)

Last Updated

29 September 2020

Published on

21 September 2012

The handover follows the launch of Metop-B on 17 September.

Since Monday evening, teams at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, have been busy day and night during the Launch and Early Orbit Phase. As planned, they checked all of Metop-B’s systems and ensured that its solar array was deployed and oriented towards the Sun to provide crucial power to run the satellite and its 11 scientific instruments.

On Day One, the ESA Flight Operations teams checked the power, temperatures, software, telecommunication links and activated a number of systems. On Day Two, they deployed five payload instrument antennas. On Day Three, with Metop-B in a near-circular orbit at around 800 km altitude and 99 degrees inclination, the teams conducted one thruster burn to fine tune the orbit and get into ‘phase’ with the orbit of Metop-A - and to prepare for handover to EUMETSAT on Thursday.

After the handover, work began immediately on the in-orbit verification of Metop-B, for a six-week period, during which all Metop-B’s 11 instruments will be switched on in sequence.

The European instruments on board Metop-B will be activated in the following order:

  • GOME-2 ultraviolet spectrometer for ozone monitoring five days after launch
  • ASCAT advanced scatterometer one week after launch
  • GRAS instrument for atmospheric sounding using radio-occultation of signals from the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) one week after launch
  • MHS microwave humidity sounder three and a half weeks after launch
  • IASI infrared atmospheric sounder six weeks after launch

Altogether, these instruments will deliver measurements of vertical profile of temperature, humidity and trace gases in the atmosphere, the wind field at the surface of the ocean, and soil moisture.

The Metop-B in-orbit check out activities will use the comprehensive EUMETSAT Polar System (EPS) ground segment. They will be coordinated by the EUMETSAT Control Centre located at EUMETSAT’s headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany, with the support of ESA, the French space agency CNES, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and industry.

About Metop

The Metop satellites are Europe’s first operational meteorological satellites in polar orbit. They constitute the space segment of the EUMETSAT Polar System (EPS) delivering data for numerical weather prediction (NWP) – the basis of modern weather forecasting – and climate and environmental monitoring.

Flying at an altitude of 817 km, each Metop satellite carries the same sophisticated suite of instruments providing fine-scale global data, which can only be gathered in the low Earth orbit, such as vertical profiles of atmospheric temperature and moisture, wind speed and direction at the ocean surface, and some atmospheric trace gases.

Observations from Metop-A have significantly improved weather forecasts up to 10 days ahead. These forecasts are essential to protect life and limit damage to property, but they also benefit the weather-sensitive sectors of the European economy, especially energy, transportation, construction, agriculture and tourism.

The three Metop satellites, launched sequentially, will provide continuous data until 2020. The first satellite, Metop-A, was launched in 2006, and the third and final satellite, Metop-C, is scheduled for launch at the end of 2017.

ESA is responsible for the development of the three Metop satellites, fulfilling user and system requirements defined by EUMETSAT. ESA also carries out operations for the Launch and Early Orbit Phase to place the satellites in polar orbit, before handing them over to EUMETSAT for commissioning and 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.

The EPS programme is Europe’s contribution to the Initial Joint Polar System (IJPS), with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

About EUMETSAT