European weather satellite system underway again after a scheduled break
The MetOp programme, primed by Airbus Defence and Space and entailing a series of three satellites that will be launched sequentially over 14 years to provide continuous, consistently calibrated data for meteorology, is underway again after a scheduled four year break.
MetOp-A has been in orbit since October 2006, providing data for the space segment of Eumetsat’s Polar System (EPS), helping improve weather forecasting capability as well as climate understanding. MetOp-A is Europe’s first polar-orbiting meteorological satellite. As prime contractor, Airbus Defence and Space had overall responsibility for the satellite itself, and for the three instruments it supplied – GRAS, ASCAT and MHS.
All three satellites were built together, with MetOp-A being completed whilst MetOp-B was fully tested although not all instruments were at full flight standard, and MetOp-C was partially completed with some customer-furnished instruments missing. The MetOp-B and MetOp-C satellites were stored in two pieces, with the payload module in Friedrichshafen and the service module in Toulouse for more than four years.
Now the team is preparing MetOp-B for launch in 2012 and is also working on MetOp-C so it can act as the flight spare at the time of the MetOp-B launch.