Europe’s MetOp-B Satellite Passes Thermal Vac Test

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A new European weather satellite has passed a vital vacuum test to prove it is fit for the rigors of space, the European Space Agency (ESA) has announced.

With the monthlong test complete, the satellite — called MetOp-B — is now a step closer to being ready to launch in spring 2012 as planned.

The instrument, built by ESA, endured temperatures ranging from over 100 degrees Celsius to minus 120 degrees Celsius, simulating the harsh environment it will encounter in Earth orbit.

“Some of MetOp-B’s sensors work under much colder conditions still, because they are actively cooled for optimal performance verification,” said ESA MetOp program manager Luciano Di Napoli in a statement.

The satellite will house a group of sensitive instruments needed to collect continuous data on temperature, humidity, cloud cover and gases in the atmosphere of our planet.

“These data are essential for operational meteorology and climate research,” said MetOp-B lead researcher Rob Oremus.

The vacuum test was conducted at ESA’s Large Space Simulator at the European Space Research and Technology Centre in the Netherlands, which houses a vacuum chamber large enough to hold a double-decker bus standing upright.

“Now that the module has overcome the vacuum test, the path is clear for the run-up to the launch,” Oremus said.

After more tests and outfitting work, MetOp-B is scheduled to launch atop a Russian Soyuz rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in 2012.