At around 00.30h Central European Summer Time tonight (August 27/28), a new
generation of European weather satellites will be launched from Kourou in
French Guiana.

The first in a series of at least three, the Meteosat Second Generation
(MSG-1) satellite will ride on an Ariane-5 launcher, into an elliptical
geostationary transfer orbit at an altitude varying between 580 kilometres
at the lowest and 36,000 kilometres above the Earth at the highest point.
Through a contract with EUMETSAT, ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in
Darmstadt, Germany will be controlling the satellite during the delicate
transfer to full geostationary orbit.

With more precise and frequent data than ever from MSG, forecasters will be
well equipped to make more accurate forecasts and the early warning of
severe events such as thunderstorms and flash flood situations.

For the first time on a geostationary spacecraft, an instrument known as
GERB (Geostationary Earth Radiation Budget experiment) will also contribute
to the monitoring of climate change, through the balance of the energy
streaming into the Earth, and that leaving.

The MSG programme user requirements were defined by EUMETSAT, Europe’s
weather satellite organisation. The satellite and instruments were specified
by the European Space Agency (ESA) and built by European space companies.
EUMETSAT has developed a completely new ground processing and satellite
operations system based in Darmstadt with specialised processing conducted
at centres known as Satellite Application Facilities throughout Europe.

MSG will provide 20 times more information than the predecessor Meteosat
system, with a wider range of more precise images of the changing weather
over Europe, Africa, neighbouring continents and oceans every 15 minutes
instead of the current 30. In particular, it will watch over the Atlantic,
where much of Europe’s weather develops.

The life-saving and economic benefits will include better planning for fog,
snowfall or hazardous winds affecting roads and airports, more precise
tracking of volcanic ash from erupting volcanoes, or ice risks from
super-cooled water clouds for airline pilots; and improved forecasting of
conditions at sea.

In a parallel programme, coordinated with the European Union, all African
nations will be equipped with MSG reception equipment to track tropical
cyclones and help predict severe weather and droughts.
As an extra bonus, MSG satellites will carry a search and rescue transponder
to quickly relay emergency beacon signals from ships and aircraft in
distress to central stations in the UK and Spain, from where rescues can be

Dr. Tillmann Mohr, Director-General of EUMETSAT, said: “This programme is
the culmination of more than 10 years work by literally hundreds of people,
all acting as a team, throughout Europe. The atmosphere during the launch
will charged with excitement and pride.

“We look forward to the first MSG-1 images, and to offering our many user
communities the vital new data for use in their bid to improve life for



MSG-1 will be the first of three geostationary satellites expected to
maintain constant watch on our weather from the same position as its
predecessors, 36,000 km above the equator at 0º Longitude (over the Gulf of
Guinea), for the next 12 years. A fourth MSG is in the planning stage for
continuation of the service.

MSG will have 12 spectral data channels instead of Meteosat’s current three;
will broadcast twice as often and with finer resolution to give clearer
images of rapidly developing weather systems and local storm activity.
Overall, MSG will transmit more than 20 times as much information as
Meteosat does today. Its greater number of channels will make MSG more
effective for monitoring the atmosphere, land and ocean surfaces useful for
a wider variety of environmental purposes.

The first MSG satellite has been developed by ESA and built by European
Industry (prime contractor Alcatel). EUMETSAT coordinated the user
requirements, developed the ground processing and satellite control system,
procured all launches and will operate the system for at least 12 years. The
subsequent two satellites and their instruments will be funded by EUMETSAT
with ESA acting as the procurement agency with industry.


EUMETSAT is an intergovernmental organisation that establishes and maintains
operational meteorological satellites for 18 European States (Austria,
Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy,
Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland,
Turkey and the United Kingdom). EUMETSAT also has four Cooperating States
(The Slovak Republic, Hungary, Poland and Croatia). Yugoslavia is expected
to become the 5th Cooperating State in the near future. The images and data
from Meteosat make a significant contribution to weather forecasting and to
the monitoring of the global climate.


ESA, the European Space Agency, was created in 1975. It provides a vision of
Europe’s future in space, and of the benefits for people on the ground that
satellites can supply. It also develops the strategies needed to fulfil the
vision, through collaborative projects in space science and technology.

The development of powerful launchers and novel spacecraft is one method by
which ESA operates. Another is by creative interaction with the national
space agencies and aerospace industries in ESA’s 15 Member States (Austria,
Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands,
Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom).

For further information:

Madeleine Pooley or Mike Phillips Media Relations Office
Tel +49 6151 807 606/605 Tel +33.1.53597.155
Fax +49 6151 807 612 Fax +33.1.53697.690