Eumetsat Welcoming New Members as Investments Loom

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PARIS — Europe’s meteorological satellite organization, Eumetsat, is likely to grow to 30 member states this year with the recent addition of Estonia and the imminent arrival of Lithuania, Bulgaria and Iceland as full members, Eumetsat Director-General Alain Ratier said Aug. 29.

In an interview, Ratier said that while these nations’ annual financial contributions will not be substantial, they have symbolic importance because Darmstadt, Germany-based Eumetsat is embarking on two large capital-investment programs.

The second-generation polar-orbiting Metop program and the next-generation Meteosat system in geostationary orbit — the latter featuring separate imaging and sounding satellites — are in their early stages. But both have received the approval of the Eumetsat administration and are moving forward.

Eumetsat members finance the organization in part through mandatory annual contributions based on the size of their national economies.

Ratier said the U.S.-European Jason-2 ocean-topography satellite, which was launched in June 2008 on a planned five-year mission, continues to operate in good health following a recent on-board anomaly and appears fit enough to remain functional until early 2017.

Jason-2’s health has become an issue because its successor, Jason-3, which Eumetsat is financing with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and with the French space agency, CNES, has been repeatedly delayed.

Ratier said Jason-3 is now planned for launch, aboard a Space Exploration Technologies Corp. Falcon 9 rocket, in March 2015. If that launch date holds, and Jason-2 remains in good health, users will not suffer any service interruption — a key requirement for the civil and military services using the Jason data.