Astrium: Metop-B on the road to the launch site

Metop-B, the European operational polar orbiting weather satellite designed and manufactured by Astrium, recently left the clean room at the European space industry leader’s site in Toulouse. Metop-B was prepared for shipping to the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where a Soyuz launcher will place it in orbit with Starsem. The target launch date is 23 May 2012.

Once in its polar orbit at an altitude of 817 km, Metop-B will provide a wide range of global measurements that are essential for weather forecasting and climate monitoring. The satellite weighs 4,100 kg and has an expected lifetime of five years in orbit.

Many components and several instruments for Metop-B were manufactured at Astrium sites in Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, France and the Netherlands. These include the ASCAT radar, which will measure the speed and direction of wind fields over the Earth’s oceans, and the Microwave Humidity Sounder (MHS) which will measure atmospheric humidity.

Metop-B is the second of three weather satellites procured by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Eumetsat from Astrium. The satellites are launched at five to six year intervals (Metop-A was launched in 2006 and Metop-C is scheduled to join them in 2016) to ensure the programme will be operational for at least 16 years.

Weather satellites are essential for ensuring the safety of citizens, infrastructure and industry in Europe and beyond. Only they can continuously provide weather and climate data spanning the entire planet. Astrium is a world leader in Earth-Observation and weather satellite manufacturing, with 86 satellites in orbit or on order, and a cumulative in orbit lifetime of more than 350 years. Following the successful manufacture of ENVISAT, Europe’s first research satellite for atmospheric observation, Astrium was selected by ESA to design and assemble some of the Sentinel satellites as part of Europe’s GMES programme for monitoring the environment and security.

The Metop/SG (Metop Second Generation) programme is expected to be approved by ESA Member States at the upcoming Ministerial Council, and by Eumetsat as a follow on programme to Metop to guarantee continuity of space data and services in the long term.

Source: European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company EADS N.V. (Paris: EAD.PA)
Date: Mar 5, 2012