Europe’s latest weather satellite has been successfully rolled-out to its launch zone atop its Ariane 5. The latest Meteosat Second Generation satellite, MSG-2, is due to launch from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana at 11:33 CET tonight.

Preparations for the mission entered their last phase on 10:30 local time (15:30 CET) on 20 December when the completed Ariane 5 emerged from the final assembly building to be rolled out to the ELA-3 complex. Riding atop its massive launch table, the Ariane 5 Generic vehicle completed the 2.8-km transfer in 90 minutes – using a dual-rail line that serves as the Spaceport’s main transportation infrastructure.

Lift-off of the Ariane 5 is set for 21 December during a 28-minute launch window that opens at 19:33 local time in French Guiana (22:33 GMT, 23:33 p.m. in Paris, and 04:03 on 22 December in Bangalore, India). Flying alongside MSG-2 is Indian telecommunication satellite INSAT-4A.  

The launch profile calls for Ariane 5 to deploy INSAT-4A into geostationary transfer orbit at just over 29 minutes into the mission, followed some seven minutes later by release of MSG-2.

On separation from the launcher’s upper stage, 36 minutes after lift-off, the first signal from the satellite should reach ESA’s control centre, ESOC, at Darmstadt, which is in charge of the early phases in the life of the satellite for EUMETSAT. After it, EUMETSAT is to subsequently take over the commissioning and the routine operations.

The needs of users of meteorological data and images have changed since the introduction of satellite data for weather forecasting in 1977. EUMETSAT has worked with ESA therefore to develop a second generation of satellite systems which substantially improves on the services offered by the existing Meteosat fleet.

Four satellites will provide continuous meteorological coverage until 2018. Since the launch of the first MSG satellite in 2002, meteorological images have been delivered every 15 minutes (instead of 30 with the first-generation Meteosat satellites) on 12 spectral channels (instead of 3) and provide vital data for a variety of applications in weather forecasting and the monitoring of climate and the environment. ESA, on behalf of EUMETSAT, will continue to act as procurement agent for all four spacecraft.

ESA will be covering the event live on the web in a dedicated launch special. Here you will find updates, the launch diary, background info, images and videos, as well as streaming of the launch offered by EUMETSAT.

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