Airbus Defence and Space’s MADRAS imager now in orbit – for a better understanding of Earth’s weather
Following launch by the PSLV launch vehicle from the Satish Dhawan spaceport in India, the MEGHA-TROPIQUES satellite reached its orbital altitude of 856 km on 12 October. The satellite’s payload is made up of three instruments. The main instrument, MADRAS, a Franco–Indian collaboration, is a microwave radiometer which was largely developed by Airbus Defence and Space and the French Space Agency, CNES.
The MEGHA-TROPIQUES mission will provide the scientific community with data on the water cycle in the atmosphere and information on energy exchanges in the intertropical regions. The singularity of this mission lies in the satellite’s orbit which covers the zone between the tropics. Scientists believe that the exchanges between the sun and the atmosphere in this zone determine the weather for the entire planet. Another interesting feature of this mission is that it uses a combination of microwave instruments with scanning so powerful that it not only sounds out clouds but also observes the meteorological phenomena on the Earth’s surface.
MADRAS, weighing in at 130 kg, almost 1.5 m high with a diameter of 1.2 m, is the mission’s main instrument: a conical microwave scanner which measures rainfall on the ground and the related vertical profiles. MADRAS will also provide scientists with data on condensed water in clouds in liquid or ice form. Its construction began in 2005 and the instrument was handed over to ISRO in April 2009. It has been designed for five years in orbit and the satellite should be able to provide data for at least three years.
An unprocessed image (without geographical references) obtained using data from MADRAS: it represents a portion of the tropical orbit scanned by the instrument’s nine channels. It is possible to make out the Arabian peninsular, central India and the Thai peninsula. (Note: left and right are reversed on these images.)