(Sen) - The Metop-B weather satellite was successfully launched into orbit last night from the Baikonur cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan.
Metop-B is the second Metop satellite, and its aim is to follow in the footsteps of its predecessor by monitoring the climate and atmosphere. Metop-A has been inhabiting a polar orbit since 2006, but has now exceeded its design lifetime.
The Russian Soyuz-Fregat vehicle launched at 16:28 UTC on September 17, and the weather satellite took up its position in a polar orbit 69 minutes later. The first few days will be used to test the systems on board the satellite before commissioning of the payload.
Metop-B was developed for the polar satellite system by the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), an international collaboration that operates several meteorological satellites. Control of the satellite will take place at ESA’s Operations Centre in Germany.
“Metop-B will become operational while Metop-A is still active and performing well,” said ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes Volker Liebig. “This will ensure the continuity of the service without any risk of interruption in the data feed. Meanwhile, we are working with EUMETSAT to prepare the future with the second generation of European polar satellites.”
The MetOp-B satellite being loaded into the rocket fairing. Credit: ESA
The launch of Metop-B comes just two and a half months after the launch of ESA’s MSG-3. MSG-3 is the third of four satellites that is designed to provide short range forecasts. “This is a perfect illustration of the vitality of Europe’s weather satellite programmes developed in cooperation between ESA and EUMETSAT,” said ESA’s Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain. “Such services are demonstrating daily the economical and societal value of investing in space infrastructure.”
The low altitude of the Metop orbits are designed to obtain detail data on the atmosphere, which will compliment data from the Meteosat satellites, whose 36,000 kilometre high orbit ensures a wide field of view. Both Metop and Meteosat satellites are part of ESA’s attempt to study the climate, as well monitor the weather.