July 02, 2012 – Cannes, France (Techreleased) – MSG-3 (Meteosat Second Generation 3, to be renamed Meteosat10 once declared operational), the latest geostationary European meteorology satellite will be placed in orbit in the next few days by an Ariane 5 launcher; The key instrument on the satellite, is a high-resolution radiometer known as SEVIRI (Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager), designed and built by Astrium, Europe’s leading space technology company.
MSG-3, built by Thales Alenia Space as prime contractor, will be the latest meteorological satellite to be placed in geostationary orbit at 36,000 kilometres from Earth. It will allow Eumetsat to guarantee continuity of the MSG service for more than ten years. This geostationary position enables a satellite to have clear view of a third of the planet, enabling it to track weather phenomena over thousands of kilometres and give several days advance warning. The data they collate is used by meteorologists all over the world to forecast weather phenomena at least five days ahead, and is also broadcast every day by the world’s television channels in the form of weather satellite maps.
In order to produce these maps and enable accurate weather forecasting, each Meteosat satellite is equipped with a primary instrument, the imaging-radiometer, installed at the heart of the satellite. Designed and built by Astrium, the radiometer observes weather phenomena in the visible and infrared spectra across a third of the Earth’s surface. MSG-3 will, for example, monitor the area approximately from the North Pole to the South Pole and from Chile to India. It will carry the third SEVIRI for MSG and the tenth radiometer designed and built by Astrium for the Meteosat constellation, the first examples of which operated in space for up to 19 years. Since the first model began operating in orbit in 2004, SEVIRI has become a global benchmark in the design of the next generation of radiometers. It is the highest performing meteorological instrument currently in geostationary orbit.
SEVIRI represents a significant technological step forward in relation to first-generation Meteosat radiometers. It is capable of detecting in 12 instead of three spectral ranges, providing an enhanced observation capability. It has a resolution factor three times greater than previous radiometers (up to one kilometre), which means that it can zoom in on local weather phenomena as and when required. In addition, SEVIRI can scan the area it observes in just 15 minutes – as opposed to 30 minutes for the previous generation.
Thanks to its sophisticated instrument, Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) plays a major role in helping to make the world a safer place by providing more detailed data on a more frequent basis. This data enables improved detection of severe weather conditions – information that is particularly useful for example for air transport operators. Better advance warning of hurricanes should also be possible. This generation of Meteosat satellites is capable of detecting very small areas of low atmospheric pressure which have the potential to become storms, thus allowing emergency organisations to react more quickly.
The MSG programme is a comprehensive system that comprises a ground segment and four satellites. The first of them, which was renamed Meteosat 8 when it became operational, was launched in August 2002, and the second (Meteosat 9) in December 2005. Astrium is key partner for the programme’s major components. In addition to the SEVIRI radiometer, Astrium also furnished critical system parts for MSG-3 (power supply, attitude and orbit control system, satellite propulsion system…) and developed the main image processing tool used by EUMETSAT.
MSG satellites work in conjunction with low-orbit meteorological satellites, such as Europe’s MetOp constellation, also built by Astrium. Data collated by geostationary satellites has the advantage of being global and always available, thus providing a base weather forecasters can work from. This base is refined at a later stage using data gathered by low-orbit satellites, which survey the Earth’s surface with extreme precision.
The MSG satellite system is a joint project involving the European Space Agency (ESA) and EUMETSAT, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, and is designed to replace the first-generation Meteosat constellation, which has been operational since 1977 – equating to exceptional continuity and reliability in terms of weather imaging. The first Meteosat program began over 40 years ago, and since taking up the baton Astrium continues to play a central role in the programme together with Thales Alenia Space.
In addition, Astrium is prime contractor for the Ariane 5 launcher, the reliable European workhorse designed and built for a large variety of heavy lift missions. With its well known ECA version, the Ariane 5 launch vehicle will inject two satellites: EchoStar XVII (telecommunications satellite) and MSG-3 (meteorology satellite) will be delivered into a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) at a targeted altitude of 35,786 km with a speed of 9,857 m/s (inertial velocity). It will be the 63rd flight of an Ariane 5 launcher.