20 May 2014 – In the presence of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus Defence and Space (the world’s second largest space company), as the industrial prime contractor, signed today the first contractual documents to start the development and construction of a series of MetOp Second Generation (MetOp-SG) weather satellites at the International Airshow ILA in Berlin.
“MetOp-SG will further increase the benefits of accurate weather prediction based on state-of-the-art European technologies,” said François Auque, Head of Space Systems. “Already today the current MetOp satellites we built are the largest provider, worldwide, of measurement data for weather forecasts and thus contribute to socio-economic benefits worth several billion Euros for European citizens every year.”
The programme is a cooperative undertaking between ESA and EUMETSAT, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites. MetOp-SG will provide continuity and enhancement of meteorological data with improved spectral and spatial resolution compared to the measurements currently provided by the first generation of MetOp satellites, also built by Airbus Defence and Space. A complete range of observations will be realised using 10 different instruments, covering ultra-violet, visible, infrared and microwave spectral bands.
As for the first generation, mission products will allow data assimilation into Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) models. They will deliver crucial information on atmosphere temperature and water profiles, on cloud detection and analysis, on sea surface temperature and winds, extending to trace gases and air quality. The addition of new instruments observing an extended spectral range enables the collection of new environmental mission observations.
The MetOp-SG space segment consists of two series of satellite, with up to three of type “Satellites A” (with a focus on optical instruments) and up to three of type “Satellites B” (with a focus on microwave instruments). Both types will be based on Astrobus high power platforms. The “A” satellites are to be developed and built under the industrial lead of Airbus Defence and Space in Toulouse (France), the design and manufacturing of the “B” satellites will be led by the company’s Friedrichshafen site in Germany. Airbus Defence and Space will lead an international industrial consortium to procure more than 150 different equipment and services for the spacecraft’s platforms and instruments.
A dedicated launch is planned for each satellite with launch masses of approx. 4 tonnes. The satellites will be placed in a sun-synchronous polar orbit, at 834 kilometres altitude (the same as the first generation MetOp satellites). The nominal lifetime of each satellite is 7.5 years.
The launch of the first “Satellite A” in 2021, followed by the first “Satellite B” in 2022, will mark the deployment of EUMETSAT´s new polar system. Three sets of each Satellite A and B will ensure nominal operational lifetime of up to 21 years (with 6 months of in-orbit overlap between successive satellites of a series).