Europe to Launch New Earth Monitoring Satellites

GENEVA, Switzerland, January 4, 2001 (ENS) - A powerful new European weather satellite to be launched early next year will strengthen environmental monitoring in Europe and 45 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

After 23 years of service, the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) is preparing to change its main weather satellite Meteosat.

January 2002 is the scheduled launch date for the first satellite in the Meteosat Second Generation series (MSG). The new satellites are designed to provide much improved images of changing weather over Europe and Africa every 15 minutes for the next 12 to 15 years.

The network of countries will receive better and more timely information for natural disaster early warning, improved food security, better health management, more efficient water use and safer transport.

MSG-1 will transmit more than 20 times as much information as Meteosat does today. Environment monitoring will be strengthened and both desertification and climate change effects will be tracked with ever greater precision.

MSG-1 will have 12 channels of data instead of Meteosat's current three. It will broadcast twice as often and with finer resolution to give clearer images of rapidly developing local storm activity.

MSG-1 will be launched by an Ariane rocket from Kourou in French Guiana in early 2002. It will be the first of three similar geostationary satellites expected to maintain constant watch on Earth's weather from the same position as its predecessors, 36,000 kilometers (22,320 miles) above the equator at 0 Longitude over the Gulf of Guinea.

dust storm

This image was taken by Meteosat over West Africa and the Eastern Atlantic. One can see large dust clouds travelling westwards out to the Atlantic Ocean. (Photo copyright 2000 EUMETSAT)
Designed to benefit the European countries which commissioned the satellite, MSG will also provide, in accordance with EUMETSAT's data policy, an abundance of free data to African, Caribbean and Pacific Ocean countries suitable for a wide range of environmental management purposes.

The new 1.64 billion Euro satellite program, a part of the global monitoring network, will be operated and managed by EUMETSAT. The three satellites are being manufactured by a European industrial consortium led by Alcatel Space Industries, France, under the responsibility of the European Space Agency.

During the last 15 years, the Meteosat weather satellite has become an integral part of the operation of global meteorology, and essential in support of the operational activities of about 50 national meteorological services in Africa.

Currently 120 receiving stations of different types are active in Africa. Under the Euro program, they will all be replaced by the new integrated receiving stations, giving access to much more accurate and more frequent data.

In addition to routine weather forecasting, national meteorological services in Africa will be able to use MSG data to strengthen their current operational services and to develop new applications such as improved air traffic control and security of marine transportation.


Meteosat-5 observed a May 1999 cyclone in the Indian Ocean which caused the death of more than 1500 people in Pakistan. (Photo copyright 2000 EUMETSAT)
The new capabilities of the MSG satellites, including fire monitoring, will enhance the capacity of weather services to monitor atmospheric, terrestrial and aquatic environments.

Severe weather warning, as with tropical cyclones affecting Madagascar, will be much easier with good satellite data, says the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Professor G.O.P. Obasi, secretary-general of the WMO, told the EUMETSAT User Forum in Kampala, Uganda last September, "The services provided by meteorological satellites for the provision of observational data and for the exchange of information have become indispensable. I would therefore like to call upon all concerned, especially development partners to redouble their efforts to ensure the success of the project."

An 11 million euro project to prepare receiving countries to make the best use of the new MSG satellites starts this year and will continue through 2005.

Forty-five African, Caribbean and Pacific countries and four regional centers in Africa will be provided with equipment, training and application support to obtain and use data from the new satellite.

The preparation project is supported financially by the European Commission, and will be managed by the Kenya Meteorological Department.