Press Release

Launch of state-of-the-art microwave sounder heralds new era in global weather forecasting

By SpaceRef Editor
May 27, 2005
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Launch of state-of-the-art microwave sounder heralds new era in global weather forecasting

A new era in global meteorological forecasting begins today with the launch of the first of five EADS Astrium state-of-the-art microwave humidity sounder (MHS) instruments on board the US polar orbiting satellite NOAA-N.

The microwave humidity sounders will form part of the instrument suite on three European (METOP) spacecraft and two US (NOAA) spacecraft being launched, between 2005 and 2015.

Designed and assembled in the UK by EADS Astrium, following the contract award from EUMETSAT, the humidity sounders scan the Earth’s atmosphere to measure emitted radiation in various spectra bands and from this can determine the water vapour content (clouds, precipitation, humidity) at various altitudes. The increased quality and accuracy of the data from the MHS instruments will mark a new era in global weather monitoring and forecasting.

Data from the MHS instruments will be provided to several meteorological organisations across the world (UK Met Office, Meteo France and USA National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration NOAA), significantly enhancing their databases and enabling more accurate weather forecasting. MHS represents a major improvement over the AMSU-B radiometer on board previous NOAA satellites, whilst providing data continuity.

Each MHS instrument weighs 63 kg and occupies only a 0.8 metre cube on the spacecraft. By adopting a common suite of Instruments on both sets of spacecraft, data utilisation is vastly simplified. With the launch of NOAA-N, global weather monitoring will be shared by Europe (EUMETSAT) and the USA (NOAA).

EADS Astrium, with its experience and expertise in microwave radiometry undertook the overall instrument design, final assembly and testing in Portsmouth, UK; the receiver and electronics in Vélizy and Toulouse, France; the scan mechanism in Friedrichshafen, Germany and the Q-band source oscillators in Stevenage, UK.

EADS Astrium is Europe’s leading satellite specialist. Its activities cover complete civil and military telecommunications and Earth observation systems, science and navigation programmes, and all spacecraft avionics and equipment.

EADS Astrium is a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS SPACE, which is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems. In 2004, EADS SPACE had a turnover of ?2.6 billion and 11,000 employees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain.

EADS is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2004, EADS generated revenues of ?31.8 billion and employed a workforce of more than 110,000. For more information, please go to

Notes to Editors:

The MHS Instrument is a five channel self-calibrating microwave rotating radiometer that scans the Earth’s surface, detecting and processing incident radiation to provide a measurement of total power in each of 5 channels. These channels, ranging from 89 – 190 GHz, provide information on surface temperature and emissivity (in conjunction with AMSU-A channels) and can detect cloud and precipitation (humidity) at various altitudes.

Channels at 157 GHz and around 183 GHz provide humidity profile sounding capability, while the 89 GHz channel provides information on surface temperature and emissivity, and detects clouds/precipitation.

Five flight instruments have been built for EUMETSAT. Two instruments will fly on USA NOAA spacecraft (launches expected between 2005/8). Three instruments will fly on European METOP Spacecraft (launches expected 2006/10/15). NOAA spacecraft will provide global weather coverage from an afternoon orbit, while METOP spacecraft will provide global weather coverage from a morning orbit.

EUMETSAT, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, is an intergovernmental organisation that establishes and maintains operational meteorological satellites for 18 European states.

SpaceRef staff editor.