Meet Milad Tawk, one of many behind the Meteosat Third Generation mission
Now that the first of the Meteosat Third Generation satellites has begun its journey through space, we’re continuing to shine a spotlight on some of the experts who are making this mission happen.
24 May 2023
24 May 2023
One spring morning in 2000, Milad Tawk set out to guide his first-ever tour group into the Qadisha Valley and the Forest of the Cedars of God. At the entrance of the UNESCO World Heritage Site just outside of Tawk’s hometown of Bcharre, Lebanon, a security guard informed him that the nature reserve was already at capacity and his group would need to wait to enter. Tawk passed along the message to the hundred tourists in his charge who, eager to see some of the world’s oldest cedar trees, proceeded to plough ahead.
“I was speaking but nobody was listening. I didn’t know how to control them,” he said.
So he improvised. He climbed up onto a tall rock and yelled the first thing that came to mind into his voice amplifier.
“I shouted, ‘The police need us to stop. They are dealing with a dangerous situation ahead.’ It wasn’t true – but it worked!” recalled Tawk with a smile.
Since then, he put his ability to think fast to good use at EUMETSAT. As Dissemination Operations Engineer, Tawk is now part of a team whose main mission is to ensure that data, including those from the new EUMETSAT-operated Meteosat Third Generation satellites, make it in near-real time to the people who use them.
“There is this famous saying, ‘Better late than never’. For Meteosat data, this is not true. Late is equal to never. This is why our main mission is to deliver the data to the users as quickly as possible,” said Tawk.
He focuses in particular on the EUMETCast system, which consists of two complementary services: EUMETCast Satellite – a service through which EUMETSAT sends out satellite data to more than 4,000 receiving stations in Europe, Africa, and a large part of Asia and South America –, and EUMETCast Terrestrial – a similar service that disseminates data to about 50 additional stations worldwide. EUMETCast provides the national meteorological and hydrological services of EUMETSAT member states – such as the Deutsche Wetterdienst in Germany and the Met Office in the UK – with crucial satellite observations of the atmosphere, ocean, land, weather, and climate.
But these big organisations are not the only ones who can access EUMETCast data. Just as anyone with an antenna, receiver, and a subscription can pick up satellite television on their TV, anyone with an antenna, receiver, and a subscription can access EUMETCast on their computer.
Tawk’s latest challenge is to ensure the fast flow of data from the first Meteosat Third Generation imager satellite, MTG-I1, to the people who use them.
“We have very challenging products from one of the MTG-I1 instruments, the Lightning Imager. For these products, it can’t take longer than twenty seconds between the time we receive the data until the end users receive them. Based on the volume of data, the way the data is generated, and the speed with which they need to be delivered, we allocate the capacity on EUMETCast Satellite. The capacity is divided into channels to make the data go out in parallel so that when the data start being generated, those who use them can receive them quickly.”
Although Tawk feels ready for the first data to be sent out to beta users, estimated to begin in July, he is prepared for things not necessarily going as planned.
“On paper, we know everything is fine. It is only later when the system is actively used that you really find out if everything is working properly. And from experience, I can tell you, there are always some surprises! But this is also an important and satisfying part of my job – to identify the source of problems and find solutions.”