Press Release

Flawless launch of a super Meteosat

By SpaceRef Editor
August 29, 2002
Filed under ,

Almost 25 years after the November 1977 launch of the very first Meteosat,
the first representative of the next generation (MSG-1) of European
weather satellites has been placed in orbit and is being made ready to
lend new dimensions to the monitoring of our planet’s climate.

On 28 August at 1945h local time (2245h GMT), a European Ariane-5 launcher
lifted off from the Guiana Space Centre, Europe’s spaceport at Kourou,
French Guiana. The two payloads were placed in geostationary transfer
orbit. One of these was the first satellite to be launched under the
Meteosat Second Generation programme. Controlled from the European Space
Agency’s operations centre at Darmstadt, Germany, MSG-1 will now make a
series of manoeuvres using its onboard propulsion system which will take
it to its definitive geostationary orbit a few weeks hence. Responding to
the launch, JosÈ Achache, ESA Director of Earth Observation, said: “With
the world’s political leaders gathered in Johannesburg to discuss the
requirements for sustainable global development of our planet, ESA is
proud to have deployed this satellite on behalf of Eumetsat and for the
benefit of countless users. It is going to improve weather forecasting,
our understanding of climate change and the issue of the planet’s water

Built by Alcatel Space Industries, as prime contractor, and a team of over
50 European companies, MSG-1 was developed by ESA on behalf of Eumetsat,
the European meteorological satellite organisation.

Eumetsat will be taking over MSG-1 at the end of September, following
in-orbit checking of its systems, and will then proceed with acceptance of
the payload. The first image from the satellite is expected by the end of
October. About a year after launch, MSG-1 will commence operational
service above the equator, at 0? longitude, taking over from Meteosat-7 as
the main weather- and climate-monitoring satellite.

Two and a half times larger than the Meteosat-1 to -7 series, MSG-1 is a
cylindrical satellite 3.22 metres in diameter and 3.74 metres in height.
Its mass on lift-off was 2 tonnes, almost half accounted for by the
propellant needed to place it on station and keep it there during its
seven-year mission.

The MSG programme aims to build on Meteosat’s success to date by flying
new, more powerful and accurate instruments for continuous observation of
the Earth’s atmosphere through to the year 2014. The MSG satellites are
going to carry on the uninterrupted monitoring performed by their
predecessors over the past quarter of a century, generating a multitude of
data essential to the understanding and modelling of our planet’s climatic

The two main instruments on board are the SEVIRI and GERB radiometers.

SEVIRI (Spinning Enhanced Visible & Infrared Imager) will be able to
supply, at intervals of 15 minutes (compared to 30 with the first
generation), images of the hemisphere observed by the satellite in 12
different visible and infrared wavelengths (a fourfold increase). This
enrichment of the spectrum of observations is a major advance, making for
improvement of numerical climate modelling. By delivering data at twice
the previous frequency, MSG-1 will make it easier for climatologists and
meteorologists to detect the start of sudden weather phenomena, such as
snow, thunderstorms and fog. Similarly, with the improvement of image
resolution in the visible spectrum, to 1 km from 2.5 km previously,
observation and monitoring of local phenomena will be improved.

The GERB (Global Earth Radiation Budget) radiometer will supply crucial
data on the Earth’s radiation budget – the balance between the incoming
radiation from the sun and the radiation returned to space. The radiation
budget, about which much has yet to be learnt, plays a key role in climate

MSG-1 is also flying a payload for receiving and relaying, almost in real
time, data from automated stations on the ground. In addition, a special
transponder will relay distress signals from ships, aircraft and any other
vehicles equipped with one of the beacons used by the COSPAS-SARSAT
international search and rescue system.

MSG-1 is to be followed by two identical satellites, for which Eumetsat
will be fully responsible. MSG-2 is currently scheduled for launch in
early 2005, MSG-3 in spring 2009. Consideration is being given to
building a fourth satellite to maintain continuity of the programme beyond

For further information, please contact:

ESA Media Relations Service

Tel.: +33(0)

Fax: +33(0)

SpaceRef staff editor.