Meteosat concept

EUMETSAT invests in new weather and climate satellites

Image credit: EUMETSAT

Europe's meteorological satellite agency will invest €26.8m (£23.2m) over the next three years in new satellite systems that will improve weather forecasting accuracy.

Europe’s meteorological satellite agency is looking to expand its low-Earth-orbiting fleet with new, complementary satellite systems. 

In a meeting in Darmstadt, Germany, the EUMETSAT Council has authorised the start of a new preparatory phase for improved weather and climate satellite systems. 

The €26.8m (£23.2m) investment is expected to allow engineering activities to continue on the EUMETSAT Polar System (EPS) Aeolus and EPS-Sterna missions, which aim to improve measurements of winds and atmospheric temperature and humidity, respectively.

The two programmes will be reevaluated in two years' time, at which point the EUMETSAT Council will decide whether to continue funding the initiatives. 

Aeolus mission concept

Aeolus mission concept / EUMETSAT

Image credit: EUMETSAT

“Our goal is to provide meteorological services in our member states with the data they need to provide timely, accurate weather forecasts to keep their communities safe and enhance their economies,” said Phil Evans, EUMETSAT director-general. 

“The council’s decision is an important commitment to these two innovative satellite systems,” he added. 

The EPS-Sterna mission has been designed as a constellation of micro-satellites, based on the Arctic Weather Satellite developed by the European Space Agency (ESA). 

The goal of the mission is to improve the quality of current atmospheric temperature and humidity profiles. In doing so, the programme would significantly benefit medium- and short-range weather forecasting globally, as well as enhancing very short-range forecasting regionally at high latitudes.

EPS-Sterna is planned to be launched in 2024.

Wind profile from Aeolus 6 May 2020

Wind profile from Aeolus 6 May 2020/ EUMETSAT

Image credit: EUMETSAT

In contrast, the EPS-Aeolus mission was designed to be the successor to ESA’s Aeolus Earth Explorer mission currently in orbit.

Aeolus would allow wind vectors from the ground to 30km altitude to be determined by measuring the Doppler shift of signal backscattered by the pulses from an ultraviolet laser. This novel observation has proven to have a significant impact on the quality of weather forecasts.

The development of the Aeolus-2 instrument and satellite was approved by ESA’s ministerial council last month, with a view towards covering more than 10 years of observations.

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