Kourou: A new satellite that will use advanced laser technology to track global winds and improve weather forecasts has been successfully launched, according to launch company Arianespace.
The launch of the satellite "Aeolus" – named after the Guardian of the Wind in Greek mythology – took place at 2120 GMT Wednesday, after a 24-hour delay due to adverse weather conditions.
Arianespace's light-lifting carrier "Vega aired its passenger during a flight that lasted just under 55 minutes, with Aeolus placed in a sun-synchronous orbit," the company said after launching.
Sun-synchronous orbits enable satellites to always have a view of the sun, so that their solar cells can always draw electricity.
The satellite "will investigate the bottom 30 kilometers (1
Aeolus is part of the Copernicus project, a joint initiative of the European Union and the European Space Agency (ESA) to monitor environmental damage and support disaster relief operations
The satellite is equipped with a single instrument: a Doppler Wind Lidar – an advanced laser system for accurately measuring global wind patterns from space.
"Almost real-time LIDAR observations will provide reliable wind profiles, further improve the accuracy of the numerical weather and climate forecast, and drive understanding of tropical dynamics and processes relevant to climate variability," said Arianespace after the launch.
It described the satellite as the world's first space mission to gather information about the Earth's global wind.
In particular, tropical winds are very poorly mapped because of the almost complete absence of direct observations.
The Doppler Lidar transmits short, strong laser light pulses in the ultraviolet spectrum to the earth. Particles in the air – moisture, dust, gases – reflect or scatter a small portion of this light energy back to the transceiver, where they are collected and recorded.
The delay between the outgoing pulse and the so-called "backscattering signal" indicates the direction, speed and distance traveled by the wind.
Once per orbit, data is downloaded to a ground station in Svalbard, Norway.
Aeolus is the fifth of ESA's planned Earth Explorer missions.
Others that have been completed or have been in operation have measured Earth's gravity and geomagnetic fields, soil moisture, salinity, and frozen expanses, collectively known as the cryosphere.
The new mission is also the 50th launch of Arianespace for the European Space Agency AFP