Meteosat: Europe’s next-generation weather satellite enters orbit

14 Dec 2022

The Ariane 5 rocket launching from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 13 December, carrying the MTG-I1 satellite. Image: ESA/M Pedoussaut

With a new lightning imager and advanced scanners, the third-generation satellite is set to boost weather forecasting and early storm detection.

The first in a new generation of European weather satellites has successfully launched into orbit, paving the way for improved forecasting and the early detection of potential extreme weather events.

The Meteosat Third Generation Imager (MTG-I1) took off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s French Guiana Spaceport yesterday (13 December).

It is the first of six satellites that will form the third-generation Meteosat system, which will provide observations for the early detection and prediction of fast-developing storms, weather forecasting and climate monitoring.

The European Space Agency (ESA) said this next generation of satellites will guarantee the continuity of weather forecasting data for the next two decades.

MTG-I1 has new features, such as the ability to capture individual lightning events and imagers that can scan Europe and Northern Africa every 2.5 minutes.

This is the first time a geostationary weather satellite has had the capability to detect lightning across Europe, Africa and the surrounding waters, according to the ESA.

When in full operation, the satellite will continuously monitor more than 80pc of the Earth’s disc for lightning discharges, taking place either between clouds or between clouds and the ground.

It will also collect data from 16 different spectral bands, which will give precise information on various topics such as clouds, oceans and local fires.

ESA director of Earth observation programmes Simonetta Cheli said the satellite was made with the support of the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites and a “highly competitive European space industry”.

“MTG will push European weather forecasting into the future,” Cheli added.

“I am very much looking forward to the next decades of working with our European partners, especially the ESA member states participating in the MTG programme, whose contribution will ensure Europe remains a world leader in satellite meteorology.”

The satellite’s Flexible Combined Imager – which is used to build a picture of fast-evolving weather events – was built by Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales and Leonardo.

Thales Alenia Space CEO Hervé Derrey said the launch has come at the right time to help detect violent storms, as they are “a growing threat exacerbated by climate change”.

“Not only will this satellite improve immediate weather forecasting, it will also give us an unprecedented anticipation of extreme weather events in Europe and Africa,” he added.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic