October 16th, 2006 10:17 EST
Satellite Launch Is Milestone in U.S.-European Cooperation
Washington -- The October 17 liftoff of the European polar-orbiting satellite, MetOp-A, will mark a major milestone in the U.S.- European Initial Joint Polar System (IJPS).
The agreement between the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) coordinates respective polar satellite launches to improve coverage of weather and climate conditions.
The MetOp satellite series consists of three spacecraft, including MetOp-A, designed to provide operational data until 2020. Under the IJPS, the MetOp satellites, flying in a morning polar orbit of the globe, will carry key NOAA instruments.
NOAA’s polar-orbiting satellites, the current NOAA-18 and the future NOAA-N Prime, carry a EUMETSAT instrument in an afternoon orbit.
Satellites in polar orbit constantly circle the Earth in nearly north-south orbits. Satellites that fly in a morning polar orbit cross the equator in the morning; satellites in an afternoon orbit cross the equator in the afternoon.
"Launching MetOp-A is a milestone for NOAA and the U.S.,” said Greg Withee, assistant administrator for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service, “because of the value and applications of data it will provide for monitoring sea-surface temperatures, drought and other climate conditions."
MetOp-A will launch from the Baikonur Space Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, according to an October 13 NOAA press release.
“A launch success will indeed be a significant milestone for operational meteorology,” said Lars Prahm, director-general of EUMETSAT. “The agreed partnership between the United States and Europe will jointly ensure a continuous flow of vital data from polar orbit.”
MetOp is Europe's first polar-orbiting satellite dedicated to operational meteorology. The weather satellite will provide information about atmospheric temperature and humidity, wind speed and direction over the ocean, and ozone and other trace gases.
The payload also includes an instrument to observe space weather and a tracking system to aid search-and-rescue operations.
Together, EUMETSAT’s MetOp, NOAA’s polar satellites and the U.S. Defense Department’s Meteorological Satellites Program series satellites will provide global data for improving forecasts of severe weather, disaster mitigation and environmental monitoring.
Additional information about the NOAA Satellite and Information service is available at the NOAA Web site, as is the full text of the press release.
For more information on U.S. support for scientific endeavors, see Science and Technology.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)