The successful launch of Ariane 5 Flight 167 leaves the launch campaign of Europe's newest meteorological satellite on track to meet its new target date of 21 December.
After 117 days of storage in French Guiana, work began on de-storing and preparing the second Meteosat Second Generation (MSG-2) spacecraft for flight on 31 October. MSG-2 launch campaign activities were officially re-started on 10 November. MSG-2 had been shipped to Europe's spaceport on 21 June. It was placed in storage following extensive testing confirmed the functionality of the platform and instruments following transport.
Meteorological satellites have become an essential element of weather forecasting and modern life, and ESA has been responsible for constructing Europe's weather satellites for almost three decades. MSG-2 is only the latest in a long line of Meteosats built by ESA: the first, Meteosat-1, was launched back in 1977. The success of the early Meteosats led to the founding of the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) in 1986.
ESA and EUMETSAT worked together on the later satellites in the series, designed to deliver continuous weather images to European forecasters on an operational basis. This cooperation between the two international organisations continues now as the original spacecraft are gradually being replaced by a new, second generation of Meteosats.
The larger, more powerful Meteosat Second Generation design takes images at more wavelengths and at shorter intervals than its parents, making it particularly suitable for short-term forecasting of sudden troublesome weather phenomena, such as snow, thunderstorms and fog.
The first of these (launched as MSG-1, since renamed Meteosat-8) was launched in August 2002 and declared operational in January 2004. With the launch of MSG-2, two MSG satellites will be functional in geostationary orbit, the operational one being at 0 degrees longitude which is above equatorial West Africa, the other being on stand-by with 10 degrees of separation, to ensure continuity of service into the future.
European weather forecasters plus climate and environment researchers are already benefiting from the advanced products and images provided by Meteosat-8. The data generated by its 12 spectral channels provide 20 times the information of its predecessors.
EUMETSAT is currently operating Meteosat-6, Meteosat-7 and -8 over Europe and Africa, and Meteosat-5 over the Indian Ocean. The data, products and services from these satellites developed by ESA for EUMETSAT -make a significant contribution to weather forecasting and the monitoring of climate change.