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MetOp: The weather channel

The most advanced meteorological satellite in the world.

MetOp-A during RF compatability testingThe MetOp-A meteorological satellite, for which Airbus Defence and Space was prime contractor under the programme between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (Eumetsat), has been in orbit since October 2006, providing data to help improve weather forecasting capability as well as understanding of climate.

MetOp-A is one in a series of three identical Airbus Defence and Space-designed and built satellites with a mission to last approximately 15 years, each satellite having an expected lifetime of five years.

MetOp-B was launched on 17 September 2012. The third satellite, MetOp-C, is scheduled for launch in 2017-2018.

MetOp-B in integration



A new meteorological era

Around a decade ago, the need for polar-orbiting satellites was recognised in Europe to complement its existing geostationary satellites, located 36,000 kilometres above the Earth, when the continent assumed its role in an international system that had previously only been ‘staffed’ by satellites from the US’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). With their polar orbit, this type of satellite can capture very accurate observations of numerous aspects of the atmosphere and achieve global coverage in a few days.

The MetOp trio represents Europe’s contribution to the collaboration between Eumetsat and its American counterpart, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). MetOp gives Europe its own system of polar-orbiting meteorological satellites, providing the capacity to observe the entire planet from a low Earth orbit, at an altitude of around 820 km. While Europe is responsible for the ‘morning’ orbit, the United States’ NOAA satellites deliver the data for the ‘afternoon’ coverage. A key factor in ensuring quality data is consistent and continuous sources, which is why both Eumetsat and NOAA agreed on a common suite of instruments (three of which are provided by Airbus Defence and Space).

MetOp provides the capacity to observe the entire planet from a low Earth orbit

MetOp has two main missions: to provide data for medium-term weather forecasts and long-term climate monitoring.

MetOp has improved the accuracy of weather forecasting, and has gained an extra day in forecasting: there is a fixed reliability rate which, with MetOp, remains constant for an extra day compared to previous systems. MetOp on its own provides over 26% of the data used by European meteorologists (with the remainder generated by American satellites, geostationary satellites, balloons, aircraft and beacons on land or at sea).

MetOp: a step forward to understanding the world’s weather

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