Soyuz Rocket launches European weather satellite MetOp-C in orbit

The latest earth observation satellite of Europe is today (November 6) in a job to improve weather forecasts and monitor changing climates around the world.

MetOp-C, the third and final satellite of the European Meteorological Operational Satellite Program (MetOp), taken from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, at 19.48. EST (0047 GMT on November 7), on a European Soyuz rocket supplied by the private launch company Arianespace.

"It was an excellent launch and everything went like a timepiece," said an Arianespace commentator during a live webcast of today's launch. [Launch Photos! Europe’s MetOp-C Soars Into Orbit on Soyuz Rocket]

This was the third successful launch of the Soyuz rocket since the failure on 11 October of a launch by a crew of the international space station on a Russian version of the Soyuz rocket. That failed launch had a booster separation problem that led to an automatic abortion during the flight, separating the crew from the Soyuz capsule from the rocket. The capsule parachuted safely back to the earth. The crew, NASA astronaut Nick Hague and the Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, were unharmed.

An artist impression of the Metop-C satellite in orbit

Credit: ESA

About one hour after take-off, the Frigat upper stage of the MetOp-C rocket placed in an almost polar, solar-synchronized orbit just over 800 kilometers above the earth. In this type of orbit, the satellite is constantly exposed to sunlight while it is between the north and south poles of the earth. [In Photos: Europe’s MetOp-C Weather Satellite Launches on Soyuz Rocket]

Its path will keep it on the daylight side of the earth's terminator, or the line between day and night, so "the satellite track along the earth is always at the same local time, in this case mid-morning," European Space Agency (ESA) ) officials said in a description of the mission. All three MetOp satellites are built by ESA and are managed by the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).

An Arianespace Soyuz rocket rises from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guyana, to deliver the European weather satellite MetOp-C into orbit on 6 November 2018.

Credit: Arianespace

The course of MetOp-C complements the orbits of other weather satellites operated by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Like MetOp-A and MetOp-B, MetOp-C will join forces with NOAA & # 39; s fleet of weather satellites through an international partnership between NOAA and EUMETSAT.

"To provide better coverage and a higher frequency again at mid-latitudes, the Metop satellites fly into the mid-morning" orbit, while NOAA's JPSS satellites in the complementary & # 39; 39; afternoon job & # 39; flying; & # 39; said officials of Arianespace in a statement.

While three MetOp satellites cover the mid-morning end of the world, NOAA satellites keep an eye on the afternoon.

Credit: UCAR / COMET program

NOAA & # 39; s Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) currently includes the Suomi NPP satellite and NOAA-20 (also known as JPSS-1). The agency plans to launch three other JPSS satellites by 2031 and EUMETSAT is already working on its second generation of MetOp satellites, called MetOp-SG, starting with the launch in 2022.

The $ 550 million MetOp-C satellite has an operational lifetime of five years, after which it will be replaced by second-generation satellites. Its predecessors MetOp-A and MetOp-B, which were launched in 2006 and 2012, have both exceeded their 5-year lifespan and are still operational. The three satellites would originally be launched every 5 years, so each new satellite replaces the latter, but thanks to their resilience and some delays in the launch, they will all be operational at the same time.

MetOp-C contains nine different scientific instruments with which it can measure things such as temperature, wind speed, humidity and ozone in the atmosphere. An instrument measures charged particles in radiation belts of the earth.

"These data are mainly used for numerical weather forecasting – the basis for weather forecasting Recent studies show that MetOp-A and MetOp-B have already reduced errors in predictions by one day by 27 percent," ESA officials said in a statement.

"The satellites circling around the poles are essential for numerical weather forecasts from 12 hours to 10 days in advance," said Arianespace officials. "The still operational Metop-A and -B satellites … make the largest contribution to reducing errors in weather forecasts one day in advance, which is why Metop-C is expected to improve this."

E-mail Hanneke Weitering at or follow her @hannekescience. follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. Original article on