Sun. Dec 3rd, 2023
A Close-Up View of Europe’s Next-Generation Satellites

On November 10, journalists were given an up-close view of two special spacecraft that are set to enhance weather services in Europe by providing more and higher quality data for weather forecasting.

The Metop Second Generation A1 and B1 satellites, also known as Metop-SGA1 and Metop-SGB1, are the first pair of a total of six satellites in the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) Polar System—Second Generation (EPS-SG) system. These satellites are currently undergoing testing and integration of their instruments at the Airbus Defense and Space cleanroom in Toulouse, France, and are expected to be launched into low-Earth, polar orbit at an altitude of approximately 835km between 2025-2026.

The EPS-SG system, estimated to generate a socio-economic return of 20:1 on investment, will be the main source of data for advanced weather forecasting in Europe from 12 hours to 10 days ahead. The new and next-generation instruments onboard the satellites will provide more accurate and better data for weather and climate services until at least the mid-2040s.

The data from the first-generation Metop satellites have significantly contributed to the accuracy of weather forecasts 12 hours to 10 days in advance. The second-generation Metop satellites, with their improved instruments, will provide even more data and higher resolution, further enhancing weather forecasting capabilities.

In addition to weather forecasting, the data collected from the EPS-SG system will also be used for monitoring wildfires, volcanic ash plumes, maritime safety, drought prediction, and monitoring the hole in the ozone layer. The Metop-SGA satellites will even carry the European Union’s Copernicus Sentinel-5 instrument, which aids in monitoring and predicting air pollution.

The EPS-SG system is a result of the successful collaboration between EUMETSAT and the European Space Agency (ESA), utilizing European scientific and industrial expertise. The requirements for the satellites were defined by EUMETSAT in consultation with scientists and users of the data, primarily meteorological and hydrological services of member states. ESA then procured the spacecraft to meet these requirements. The development of the Metop-SG satellites was done under ESA contract by a European industrial consortium led by Airbus Defense and Space.

EUMETSAT has also developed sophisticated ground systems to operate these satellites and handle the vast amount of data produced by their instruments. The EPS-SG system is part of the European-United States’ Joint Polar System, allowing data sharing between EUMETSAT and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) polar-orbiting satellites, benefiting weather forecasting and climate monitoring on both sides.