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MetOp-A, European Meteorological Satellite


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#16    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 18 July 2006 - 04:07 PM

MetOp launch postponed

The launch of the MetOp-A satellite has been postponed due to an anomaly on one piece of equipment of the Soyuz launch vehicle, Mr F. Maroquene, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Starsem, has announced. Investigations are still ongoing. A new launch date will be announced by Starsem in the next few hours.

Source: ESA - MetOp

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#17    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 19 July 2006 - 07:42 AM

New attempt for MetOp launch today

user posted image
Launch pad at Baikonur Cosmodrome is readied for liftoff with the Soyuz 2-1a.

Credits: Starsem


19 July 2006
New launch attempt scheduled for tonight at 18:28 CEST (16:28 UT, 22:28 Baikonur local time). The satellite preparation has started, satellite is switched on and in standby. Flight software loading to commence shortly. The weather is good. Status of MetOp-A, launcher and ESOC is 'Green'.

Yesterday's launch attempt was aborted shortly after the "go" agreement had been reached at the State Commission, at 3h 30m to launch. The abort was caused by out of limits results in the automated check-out procedure of the launcher. After investigation, this was found to be caused by the partially fuelled status of the launch vehicle, as the test parameters were set to either the empty or the fully fuelled configuration.
Accordingly, the launcher was fully defuelled last night and will go through its nominal launch preparation sequence from the standard starting configuration today. In additional, a dry run will be performed up to the early afternoon to confirm the good status of the vehicle, with a subsequent decision point at 12:00 CEST (16:00 local time).


Source: ESA - News

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#18    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 20 July 2006 - 08:23 AM

MetOp launch postponed

20 July 2006 The launch of MetOp-A will not be attempted today. Yesterday's launch was aborted two minutes before its scheduled time.

Source: ESA - MetOp

-----------------------------------------------------

I am beginning to get a real sense of déjà vu every time I make a post in this thread!


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#19    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 20 July 2006 - 10:59 AM

Launch of MetOp-A postponed

user posted image
After a series of delays, the launch of MetOp-A satellite onboard
a Soyuz/ST launcher has been postponed until further notice.

Credits: EUMETSAT


20 July 2006
After a series of failed launch attempts, the launch of the MetOp-A satellite has been postponed until further notice. The third attempt to launch the satellite onboard a Soyuz/ST launcher was aborted yesterday 3 minutes and 5 seconds before the scheduled lift-off due to a problem with the Soyuz ground support system at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The satellite and the launch vehicle will be returned to the launcher integration facility, and a new operations plan will be developed to determine the new launch date.
The first launch attempt on Monday, 17 July, was aborted due to an incorrect parameter value on the ground system of the launcher. The error was corrected and verified on a reference platform. The second launch attempt on 18 July failed shortly after the fuelling sequence of the launcher was restarted. Unexpected telemetry readings resulting from the partially fuelled configuration led to this second interruption of the launch sequence.

The full press release is available on the EUMETSAT website.


Source: ESA - News

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#20    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 12:15 PM

MetOp to be launched in October

user posted image
MetOp is a series of three new polar-orbiting satellites to be launched sequentially
starting in 2006. The series forms the space segment of the EUMETSAT Polar System
and represents the European contribution to a new cooperation with the USA marking
a new era in global weather monitoring and forecasting.

Credits: ESA - AOES Medialab


7 August 2006
MetOp, the first in the new European series of operational meteorological satellites in polar orbit, is now scheduled for launch on 7 October 2006. The new date was established last week following various planning meetings between the partners (ESA, EUMETSAT, CNES, NOAA) and Starsem, the launcher company.

MetOp’s planned launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan on a Soyuz/ST launcher, originally planned for 17 July, had to be called off after three consecutive attempts due to technical reasons related to the Soyuz’s ground system.
The MetOp series consists of a total of three satellites, which are designed to provide meteorological operational data from polar orbit until 2020. The global data sets gathered by the MetOp satellites will revolutionise the way the Earth’s weather, climate and environment are observed, in particular they are expected to significantly improve operational meteorology through the provision of additional data for Numerical Weather Prediction Models. MetOp will also provide an important contribution towards the improvement of severe weather forecasts and disaster mitigation.

All MetOp satellites are developed by a joint EUMETSAT and European Space Agency (ESA) team, with EADS Astrium as the prime contractor. The suite of MetOp instruments are provided by ESA, EUMETSAT, the French Space Agency (CNES), and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).


Source: ESA - News

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#21    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 14 September 2006 - 03:27 PM

New launch date for Europe’s first polar-orbiting weather satellite

user posted image
MetOp is a series of three new polar-orbiting satellites to be launched sequentially starting in 2006. The series forms the space segment of the EUMETSAT Polar System and represents the European contribution to a new cooperation with the USA marking a new era in global weather monitoring and forecasting.

Credits: ESA - AOES M


14 September 2006
ESA PR 33-2006. MetOp-A, the first in a new European series of three meteorological operational satellites designed to monitor the Earth’s atmosphere from polar orbit, is now to be launched on Saturday 7 October from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

It will complement Europe’s already highly successful Meteosat satellites positioned in geostationary orbit and will form the European part of an integrated system to be deployed jointly with the USA to provide better weather and climate information.
The MetOp satellite series is a joint programme being carried out by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Meteorological Satellite Organisation (EUMETSAT), with the latter set to operate the spacecraft once they are in orbit. These new satellites will form the space segment of the EUMETSAT Polar System (EPS) and probe the atmosphere with high accuracy. They will circle the globe from pole to pole at an altitude of about 817 km, collecting high-resolution data to complement the hemispheric survey of the atmosphere conducted from geostationary orbit by the Meteosat system.  

user posted image
The MetOp satellite series will provide data for both operational meteorology and climate studies. The combination of instruments on board MetOp has remote sensing capabilities to observe the Earth by day and night as well as under cloudy conditions.
  
These new European satellites will be operated in partnership with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) polar weather satellite system, providing data that will be used to monitor our planet’s climate and improve weather forecasting.

NOAA satellites will operate the 'afternoon shift' (i.e. crossing the equator in the afternoon, local time), with Europe’s MetOp taking over the 'morning orbit' service.

The MetOp spacecraft have been developed and built by an industrial team led by EADS Astrium based in Toulouse, France. Three flight models were ordered and have essentially been completed. They will be launched sequentially in order to ensure continuous data delivery up to 2020 at least. Each satellite is 6.5 metres high and weighs about 4 tonnes at launch. MetOp-A, the first in the series, is carrying a suite of instruments which complement each other and existing meteorological satellites systems in terms of data provided.

user posted image
MetOp undergoing final preparations for its 7 October launch at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Credits: ESA - K. Büchler

  
The first MetOp satellite is currently at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. There, it is undergoing final preparations for its 7 October launch onboard a Russian Soyuz ST/Fregat rocket operated by Starsem. Lift-off is scheduled for 18:28 CEST (16:28 GMT).


ESA TV will be providing live coverage of the launch from the main mission control room at ESOC, ESA’s space operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany. The initial programme will cover the final 15 minutes of the countdown, lift-off and launcher flight through to upper-stage engine shut-down.

A second live sequence, some 75 minutes later, will cover the spacecraft’s separation from the launcher’s upper stage and spacecraft signal acquisition by mission control. The live broadcast will be available for downloading from the Eutelsat W2 satellite. The MetOp Video News Release will be played three times on 6 and 7 October, on Europe by Satellite, on Hot Bird. Details of all broadcasts will be posted on http://television.esa.int
as from 2 October.

user posted image
The Main Control room at ESOC.

Credits: ESA - P.Sebirot


You can follow the launch events via the following dedicated websites at: http://www.esa.int/metop and http://www.eumetsat.int.

Source: ESA - News

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#22    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 04:42 AM

MetOp launch campaign resumed

user posted image
The instruments have to be cleaned as part of the launch campaign activities

Credits: ESA - K. Büchler


19 September 2006
With the launch of MetOp now set for 7 October at 18:28 CEST, the MetOp satellite is out of storage and preparations for launch are well underway at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

MetOp's planned launch from Baikonur on a Soyuz/ST launcher, originally planned for 17 July, had to be called off after three consecutive attempts because of technical issues relating to the Soyuz's ground system. However, the problems have now been solved and a review of the overall ground system validation process is now underway. In addition, the Soyuz launcher has been completely refurbished and has been transported back to the launch site from the manufacturer's facilities in Samara, Russia.  

user posted image
Activities concerning the maintenance and preparation of the solar array after the storage period are completed

Credits: ESA - K. Büchler
  

After the aborted launch attempts, the MetOp satellite had to be prepared to go into storage until the new launch date was set. Among other things, this meant that the solar array Kevlar deployment cables, which have to be tensioned before launch, had to be released. During the storage period the satellite and the Fregat had daily check-ups to ensure that they were maintained in a safe state.
This included monitoring the temperature and pressure within the Fregat propulsion system and keeping a check on the nitrogen gas flushing system that was needed by some of the instruments under storage conditions.

The launch campaign officially resumed on 29 August and the team are back in Baikonur to carry out the pre-launch procedures. This time there are even more safety constraints as the MetOp satellite remains fuelled from the previous launch attempts and checks for any leaks are continually being carried out.

So far, the main activities have been concerned the de-mating and removal of the Fregat upper stage, and then with the start of the satellite preparation with unlocking and re-locking the solar array drive mechanism, and replacing the solar array Kevlar cables – all of which have been successfully completed. Checks have been completed on the umbilical cable for the launch vehicle adapter and Fregat upper-stage. The HIRS (High-resolution Infrared Radiation Sounder), the AVHRR (Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer) and the GOME-2 (Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment-2) instruments have all been cleaned and inspected.

The satellite is scheduled to be mated with the Fregat upper-stage on 22 September and encapsulated in the fairing on 28 September. The Upper Composite, which is the encapsulated satellite and Fregat upper-stage, will be integrated onto the Soyuz rocket on 30 September and rollout to the launch pad will take place on 4 October followed by launch on 7 October.


Source: ESA - News

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#23    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 26 September 2006 - 02:06 PM

MetOp launch campaign resumed

user posted image
The MetOp satellite and the Fregat upper-stage were successfully
integrated on 22 September 2006.

Credits: ESA - Kurt Büchler


26 September 2006
As the launch campaign continues on track, the MetOp satellite has been successfully mated to the Fregat upper-stage.

As both the satellite and the upper-stage engine remain fuelled, the integration is potentially hazardous. Nevertheless, this delicate operation was carried out very smoothly with everything going according to plan.  

Before this took place the Fregat had been tested in an end-to-end configuration using simulators for the launcher, the launch vehicle adapter and the satellite.

user posted image
The fairing is inspected to make sure everything is clean.

Credits: ESA - Kurt Büchler


In addition to the mating, other important activities over the weekend have involved an inspection of the fairing and the reinstallation of the network data interface unit, which connects the satellite on the launch pad with the ground control centre in Darmstadt, Germany. Other routine operations continue to be carried out such as the check-out of Fregat’s electrical systems along with charging the batteries on-board MetOp.


As the launch campaign continues on schedule, the MetOp satellite and Fregat upper-stage will be encapsulated in the fairing on 28 September and, as the so-called upper composite, transported by overnight train to the launch vehicle integration hall. The upper composite will then be integrated with the Soyuz rocket on 30 September. Rollout to the launch pad will take place on 4 October followed by launch on 7 October.


Source: ESA - News

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#24    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 02 October 2006 - 02:52 PM

MetOp launch postponed

user posted image
The MetOp satellite and the Fregat upper-stage were successfully
integrated on 22 September 2006.

Credits: ESA - Kurt Büchler


2 October 2006
EUMETSAT has announced that on Saturday 30 September the upper composite (comprising the MetOp spacecraft, the Fregat upper stage and the Soyuz fairing) experienced a slight mechanical shock. It was then decided to interrupt the launch campaign and return the upper composite to the clean room for inspection.

A preliminary review has already indicated that there are no apparent problems, however a full inspection of the spacecraft and the Fregat is considered essential. The fairing will therefore be removed today to allow for visual inspection.
A refined mechanical analysis as well as the assessment of possible impacts of the incident on the flight hardware will be done. Results of these analyses should be available on Tuesday evening, which would then also be the decision point for the continuation of the launch campaign sequence.

If the conclusions are positive and given confirmation by Starsem on Wednesday 4 October a new launch date could then be announced.

The incident causing the launch delay happened due to an incorrect manoeuvre during the final positioning of the upper composite on the train for the transport to the launch pad, resulting in the upper composite being dropped by few centimetres.


Source: ESA - News

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#25    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 06 October 2006 - 02:03 PM

MetOp to be launched on 17 October

user posted image
MetOp is a series of three new polar-orbiting satellites to be launched sequentially starting in 2006. The series forms the space segment of the EUMETSAT Polar System and represents the European contribution to a new cooperation with the USA marking a new era in global weather monitoring and forecasting.

Credits: ESA - AOES M


5 October 2006
EUMETSAT confirms Tuesday 17 October as the new launch date for MetOp, Europe's first polar-orbiting satellite dedicated to operational meteorology. MetOp will lift off at 18:28 CEST (16:28 UTC; 22:28 local time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on a Soyuz/ST launcher.

Due to a mechanical incident at the Baikonur launch base on 30 September the launch of MetOp, originally planned for Saturday 7 October 2006, had to be postponed.


Source: ESA - News

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#26    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 09:22 PM

MetOp encapsulated in fairing

user posted image
MetOp being encapsulated in the fairing

Credits: ESA - Kurt Büchler


10 October 2006
Following the formal key point meeting with Starsem, the MetOp satellite mated to Fregat has been successfully encapsulated in the fairing. The resulting Upper Composite will now be transferred, by train, from the integration facility to the launcher preparation facility tonight, in preparation for launch on Tuesday 17 October.

The train will undergo its slow journey through the night to reach the Soyuz launcher preparation facility tomorrow morning where it will be mated with the third-stage of the rocket.

user posted image
Following the mishandling incident on 30 September, the instruments are inspected to
ensure no damage had been incurred.

Credits: ESA - Kurt Büchler


The encapsulation follows a week where inspection and analysis has been conducted to check that no damage had been sustained as a result of an incident that took place when the Upper Composite was being loaded onto the train to take it to the launch facility on 30 September. The Upper Composite experienced a slight mechanical shock and therefore had to be returned to the clean room for a full inspection after de-encapsulation. This incident meant that the campaign had to be interrupted and MetOp could not be launched on 7 October as originally planned.

user posted image
MetOp in horizontal position

Credits: ESA - Kurt Büchler


Fortunately, the inspection and analysis revealed that no damage had been incurred and subsequent talks between Starsem, ESA, Eumetsat and the Russian partners resulted in a new launch date being set for 17 October at 18:28 CEST.


Source: ESA - News

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#27    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 12 October 2006 - 11:57 AM

Safe arrival at the launch facility for MetOp

user posted image
The MetOp upper-composite being lifted onto the train for its overnight journey to
the Soyuz launch facility MIK 40.

Credits: ESA - Kurt Büchler


11 October 2006
After its slow journey through the night, the upper-composite, which comprises the MetOp satellite and the Fregat upper-stage, safely arrived at the Soyuz launch preparation facility on Wednesday 11 October.

In preparation for the six-hour journey, the upper-composite was hermetically sealed and moved out of the Upper Composite Integration Facility (UCIF). In the outer hall it was lifted by crane and transferred to the train. This time the procedure to attach the upper-composite to the wagon ran perfectly and the precious cargo left MIK 112 at 21:30 on Tuesday 10 October, escorted by three MetOp team members.  

The convoy reached MIK 40 near the launch pad in the morning of 11 October where it was carefully off-loaded by crane. Here the upper-composite will be mated with the third-stage of the Soyuz launcher.

Peter Edwards, ESA MetOp Project Manager said, "Following the satisfactory clearing-up of the earlier handling incident which delayed the first attempt to get the satellite to the launch pad, this time the transfer from the integration facility to the launch facility went extremely well. We are all looking forward the roll-out and then, next Tuesday, when MetOp, our “baby” and Europe's first polar orbiting weather satellite launches."


The fully assembled launcher will be rolled out and erected at the launch tower on Saturday 14 October, ready for launch on Tuesday 17 October.


Source: ESA - News

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#28    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 13 October 2006 - 09:25 PM

Integration of MetOp upper-composite and third-stage complete

user posted image
The Upper-composite and third-stage being mated at the MIK 40 launcher integration
facility.

Credits: ESA - K. Büchler


13 October 2006
In preparation for the roll out to the launch pad at the weekend, the MetOp upper-composite has been successfully integrated to the third stage of the Soyuz launcher. The ensemble is currently undergoing final checks before being transported and erected at the launch pad.

Following its arrival at the MIK 40 Soyuz launch integration facility, the upper-composite was carefully lifted off the train and moved into position so that it could be mechanically coupled to the third-stage of the rocket. The procedure went according to plan and the ensemble is now being prepared for its short journey to the launch pad where it will be positioned in the launch tower.  

The launch of Europe's first polar-orbiting weather satellite is still set for Tuesday 17 October at 18:38 CEST.


Source: ESA - News

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#29    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 17 October 2006 - 11:10 PM

Europe's first polar-orbiting weather satellite ready for launch

user posted image
MetOp in vertical position.

Credits: ESA - K. Büchler


16 October 2006
Following the roll out to the launch pad and erection at the launch tower at the weekend, MetOp is ready for launch at 18:28 CEST tomorrow from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launch of Europe's first polar-orbiting weather satellite is set to make a major contribution to global weather forecasting and climate monitoring.

The roll out to the launch pad and erection of the Soyuz rocket at the launch tower took place on Saturday 14 October. Carried by train, the launcher left the hall where the upper-composite, which comprises the MetOp satellite and the Fregat upper-stage, had been integrated with the third-stage of the launch vehicle. The train slowly pulled its cargo over to the launch pad where the rocket was erected with the help of a huge hydraulic ram. The final countdown rehearsal followed, confirming that the launch will go-ahead tomorrow.  

user posted image

MetOp being rolled out to the launch pad on 14 October 2006.

Credits: ESA - K. Büchler


Once launched, MetOp will be renamed 'MetOp-A' as it is the first in a series of three satellites developed as part of a joint undertaking between ESA and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), whereby MetOp forms the space segment of EUMETSAT's Polar System (EPS). In addition, MetOp is the European contribution to a new cooperative venture with the American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), so that MetOp and NOAA satellites fly in complementary orbits to maximise the coverage area over which observations are made.

user posted image

MetOp's Soyuz launcher being put into vertical position at the launch tower.

Credits: ESA - K. Büchler


MetOp is Europe's first polar-orbiting satellite dedicated to operational meteorology and with its array of sophisticated instruments, this weather satellite promises to provide data of unprecedented accuracy and resolution on a whole host of different variables such as atmospheric temperature and humidity, wind speed and direction over the ocean, ozone and other trace gases, thus making a major contribution to global weather forecasting and climate monitoring capabilities. The payload also includes an instrument for data collection, an instrument to observe the weather in space as well as a tracking system to aid search-and-rescue operations.

At just over 4000 kg, MetOp is the second largest Earth-observation satellite built in Europe. Its launch tomorrow will mark a new era in the field of meteorology by improving medium- to long-term weather forecasting and climate monitoring whilst contributing to our understanding of global change.


Source: ESA - Living Planet - MetOp

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf, 17 October 2006 - 11:11 PM.

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#30    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 17 October 2006 - 11:22 PM

MetOp: ESA controllers ready for critical launch and early orbit phase

16 October 2006
After waiting expectantly through three previous launch attempts, mission controllers at ESOC - ESA's Space Operations Centre - are again looking forward to a demanding launch and early orbit phase when they take control of MetOp after launch on 17 October.

The launch and early orbit phase (LEOP) begins 69 minutes after launch and ends three days later when ESA hands MetOp over to the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) after placing the satellite into its nominal orbit and ensuring that all systems are working properly.
After launch, but prior to LEOP, the spacecraft and its Soyuz/Fregat launcher will go though a series of critical actions, including booster separation, second/third stage separation, fairing jettisoning, separation of the Fregat-plus-spacecraft from the third stage, Fregat engine ignition and, finally, separation of MetOp from Fregat.  

Acquiring solar power a vital first step

Once on its own, MetOp's LEOP will be initiated by an auto-sequence that includes releasing and deploying the solar array.

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MetOp Flight Operation Directors (FODs) Andreas Rudolph, left, and John Dodsworth, right, pictured in ESOC's Main Control Room, 10 October 2006. Dodsworth is FOD for the 'A' Mission Control Team, while Rudolph is rosponsible for the 'B' MCT. The overall team is split into two to provide 24/7 coverage durign the critical launch and early orbit phase (LEOP), running for 3 days starting with the scheduled 17 October 2006 launch.

Credits: ESA-D.Scuka


"In LEOP, we have a series of milestones to achieve. The most critical is perhaps the solar array deployment and then orienting towards the Sun; we only have battery life sufficient for a few hours of operation and without solar power, the mission can't proceed," says Andreas Rudolph, Flight Operations Director for MetOp's 'B-shift' Mission Control Team.

His colleague John Dodsworth oversees the 'A-shift' Team, with the two teams occupying ESOC's Main Control Room (MCR) in shifts 24 hours per day during LEOP.

Dodsworth explains that the LEOP period for any mission is a challenge, but he points to unique factors related to MetOp. "Due in part to the polar orbit and the launch trajectory, we've got seven ground stations involved; there are also a significant number of engineers from ESA/ESOC, our client at EUMETSAT, ESA/ESTEC (European Space Research and Technology Centre) and industry to coordinate," he says.

ESOC providing launch control under contract to EUMETSAT

EUMETSAT is responsible for the satellite and will operate it during its routine mission. ESOC is providing LEOP control services to EUMETSAT as a contracted service and will hand over control at the end of LEOP.

MetOp will enter a polar orbit at an altitude of approximately 817 km with an orbital period of 101 minutes, and so multiple ground stations are necessary to provide the full-time communications needed during LEOP.

These include stations at Kerguelen, Malindi, Svalbard, Kiruna and Hawaii.

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The Kiruna S-band and X-band station primarily supports the European Remote Sensing satellites, ERS-1 and ERS-2. It is equipped for tracking, telemetry and command operations as well as for reception, recording, processing and dissemination of data from the sensor instruments on-board the two satellites.
The Kiruna station is located at Salmijärvi, which is 38 kilometres east of Kiruna in northern Sweden. The coordinates of the ERS-1/ERS-2 antenna are 67.85712518 deg. N latitude and 20.96434169 deg. E longitude. The antenna is sited at 402.275 m with respect to the WGS-84 reference ellipsoid.

The Kiruna station primarily supports ERS-1 and ERS-2 missions. The station comprises a Telemetry Tracking Command and Data Acquisition Facility (TTCDAF) and a Data Processing and Product Distribution Facility (PRODIS). The station operates in S-band for uplink and downlink and in X-band for downlink only. In addition to the normal TTC functions of a ground station the TTCDAF includes a Reference Measurement System (RMS) for routine measurements of S-band and X-band satellite signals from the ERS satellites.

The station is connected to the Mission Management and Control Centre (MMCC) at ESOC via dedicated voice and data circuits. The station is remotely monitored and controlled from the MMCC under nominal operating conditions. A mini control centre is located at the station to provide backup in the event of a serious problem being encountered at ESOC.

ERS payload data is recorded at the station during a pass. After a pass, the recorded data is played back, processed, and distributed to the users by various methods.

Credits: ESA-S.Corvaja


MetOp's recent delayed and aborted launches have enabled the Mission Control Teams to spend additional time preparing the systems used on the ground to control LEOP. "We ran some 30 simulation sessions prior to the first launch attempt back in July, and since then we've taken advantage of the extra time to run many more," says Dodsworth. "The team was relatively inexperienced when we started, but they are very competent now."

Both managers say the multinational teams, drawn from ESA's operations experts at ESOC in Darmstadt, Germany, are very motivated for the launch. "The extra time has allowed each team to train as a full back-up for the other; each team works slightly differently, but each could take over for the other. As a Flight Operations Director, you definitely have to adapt the way you work to take into account the different personalities you have," says Dodsworth.
  
LEOP marks three days of critical activities

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Main Control Room at ESOC with mission control workstations and typical spacecraft mimic display as inset.

Credits: European Space Agency, ESA


In addition to the critical solar array deployment and first power, the three-day LEOP will include a series of important activities.

These include acquiring the initial radio signal from the satellite, determining the exact position and orbit, planning a manoeuvre strategy that will boost the satellite into the final operational orbit and controlling the attitude, as well as confirming the proper operation of all systems and switching on some instruments and deploying payload antennas.

Launcher performance dictates manoeuvre plan

Final manoeuvring will be done using the onboard thrusters, and the extent of firing required will depend on the actual performance of the launcher.

On LEOP Day 3, the ESOC teams will prepare to hand over the mission for routine control to EUMETSAT, who will also closely monitor LEOP from their control facilities. Hand over will be done using a data link established between ESOC and EUMETSAT. "We hand over the satellite properly configured, in its nominal orbit and ready to go," says Rudolph.


Teams work "incredibly hard"

Both Rudolph and Dodsworth say the most rewarding part of their job relates to their teams, and watching them develop into effective mission controllers.

"When we started training, things weren't finished, and the teams have worked incredibly hard on this. MetOp is challenging. It's the first European meteorological satellite to go into low-Earth orbit," says Dodsworth, adding, "Now, we're ready to go."


Source: ESA - Living Planet - MetOp

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