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Soyuz rocket launches European weather satellite MetOp-C into orbit



Europe's newest Earth Observation Satellite was launched into orbit today (6 November) to improve weather forecasts and monitor the changing climate around the world.

MetOp-C, the third and final satellite of the European Meteorological Operational Satellite Program (MetOp), was launched at 7:47 am from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. EST (0047 GMT on 7 November) on a European Soyuz rocket provided by private launch company Arianespace.

"It was a great start, and everything went like clockwork," said one Arianespace commentator during a live broadcast today. [Launch Photos! Europe’s MetOp-C Soars Into Orbit on Soyuz Rocket]

This was the third successful launch of a Soyuz rocket since an International Space Station crew failed on a Russian version of the Soyuz rocket on October 1

1. In this failed launch, there was a booster disconnect problem that caused an automatic crash during the flight and separated the Soyuz capsule from the rocket. The capsule fell safely back to earth. The crew, NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, were unharmed.

  Artist's impression of the Metop-C satellite in orbit

Artist's impression of the Metop-C satellite in orbit

Photo credits: ESA

About an hour after launch, the Fregat upper stage of the rocket MetOp ein -C into an almost polar, sun-synchronous orbit, which is almost 800 kilometers above the earth. In this type of orbit, the satellite is constantly exposed to sunlight as it moves between the north and south poles of the earth. [In Photos: Europe’s MetOp-C Weather Satellite Launches on Soyuz Rocket]

Its path will hold it on the daylight side of the earth's terminator or the line between day and night, so that "the satellite orbit along the earth is always at the same local time, in this case in the middle. Representatives of the European Space Agency (ESA) said in a description of the mission. All three MetOp satellites were built by ESA and operated by the European Organization for the Use of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).

  An Arianespace Soyuz rocket takes off from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou (French Guiana) to deliver European weather satellite MetOp-C into orbit on November 6, 2018.

An Arianespace Soyuz rocket takes off from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou (French Guiana) and delivers the European weather satellite MetOp-C to orbit on 6 November 2018

Credit: Arianespace

The MetOp-C orbit complements the orbits of other weather satellites operated by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Like MetOp-A and MetOp-B, MetOp-C will work with NOAA's weather satellites fleet as part of an international partnership between NOAA and EUMETSAT.

"To ensure improved coverage and higher midfrequency repeatability, Metop satellites will be deployed in early morning orbit while NOAA's JPSS satellites fly in the" afternoon "additional orbit "said the representatives of Arianespace in a statement.

  While three MetOp satellites cover the "morning" side of the world, NOAA satellites keep an eye on the afternoon side.

While three MetOp satellites cover the globe's "mid-morning" side, NOAA satellites keep an eye on the afternoon side.

Credit: UCAR / COMET Program [19659007] NOAA's Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) currently includes the Suomi NPP satellite and NOAA-20 (also known as JPSS-1). The agency plans to launch three more JPSS satellites by 2031, and EUMETSAT is already working on its second generation MetOp satellite called MetOp-SG, scheduled to launch in 2022.

The $ 550 million MetOp-C satellite has a life of 5 years, after which it will be replaced by the second generation of satellites. The predecessors MetOp-A and MetOp-B, which were launched in 2006 and 2012, have exceeded their expected lifespan of five years and are still in operation today. The three satellites were originally scheduled to launch at 5-year intervals, with each new satellite replacing the last, but thanks to its reliability and some start-up delays, all three are now operational at the same time.

MetOp-C Contains nine different scientific instruments that measure the temperature, wind speed, humidity and ozone in the atmosphere. An instrument measures charged particles in radiation belts of the earth.

"This data is mainly used for numerical weather forecasting – the basis for weather forecasting – recent studies show that MetOp-A and MetOp-B have already reduced the errors in one-day forecasts Up to 27 percent," said ESA representatives in a statement.

"The polar orbiting Metop satellites are essential for the numerical weather forecast from 12 hours to 10 days in advance," said the representatives of Arianespace. "Metop-A and B satellites, still in service, make the biggest contribution to mitigating the errors in weather forecasts one day in advance, so Metop-C should improve that."

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience . Follow us on Twitter @SpaceTotcom and on Facebook. Original article on Space.com


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