A Soyuz rocket has successfully delivered its third and final European Meteorological Operational Polar satellite from the Guiana Space Centre, reaching a sun-synchronous “mid-morning” polar orbit about an hour after liftoff.
Located over 500 miles above Earth, this type of orbit keeps the satellite constantly exposed to sunlight as it travels between Earth’s north and south poles.
From its orbit, the satellite will monitor changing climates around the globe to improve weather forecasts. It compliments other weather satellites of the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) as well as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States.
Soyuz is a series of spacecraft designed for the Soviet space program by the Korolev Design Bureau in the 1960s which remains in service today. The Soyuz succeeded the Voskhod spacecraft and was originally built as part of the Soviet manned lunar programs.
The Metop-C, which was jointly developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and EUMETSAT for the space segment of the EUMETSAT Polar System, carries nine different scientific instruments that measure everything from temperature and wind speed to humidity and ozone in the atmosphere and provide data of unprecedented accuracy and resolution.
“These data are used mainly for numerical weather prediction; the basis for weather forecasting. Recent studies show that MetOp-A and MetOp-B have already reduced errors in one-day forecasts by as much as 27 percent,” said ESA officials in a statement.
The Metop-C cost U$550 million to develop and launch, with an operational lifetime of five years. Its predecessors, MetOp-A and MetOp-B, have the same operational lifetime but are still in orbit even though they were launched in 2006 and 2012 respectively.
The launch of the Metop-C followed hot on the heels of a deformed sensor on a Russian version of the Soyuz rocket forcing a Russian-American space crew to make an emergency landing in Kazakhstan.