MetOp-B launches with NASA Goddard-developed instruments

September 18, 2012 by Cynthia O'carroll
MetOp-B during testing in Europe. Credit: ESA

(—A new European meteorological satellite soared into space today, Sept. 17, with five environmental instruments aboard that were developed by the Polar Operational Environmental Satellites (POES) Project at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. These instruments were developed under a reimbursable agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"This launch is exciting not only because of the engineering accomplishment of building and launching complex instruments and satellites, but equally rewarding for the multinational cooperation and teamwork that got us there," remarked Karen Halterman, POES Project manager at Goddard.

The European Meteorological Operational (MetOp)-B spacecraft was aboard a Soyuz that launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. MetOp-B is the second of three (ESA) and European Organisation for the Exploitation of (EUMETSAT) .

The five NASA-developed, NOAA-provided instruments, include: the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU)-A1 and AMSU-A2; the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR); the High Resolution Infrared Radiation Sounder (HIRS); and the Space Environment Monitor (SEM).

The Goddard-developed instruments will gather data that includes remotely sensed vertical profiles of atmospheric temperature and moisture, and visible and of cloud cover and surface conditions such as vegetation, snow and ice. These are input into short-, medium- and long-range weather forecast models by the . The data are also used for climate models and to improve understanding of Earth's atmospheric and ocean processes. Measurements of charged particles in situ are used to determine levels of aurora activity and to monitor the intensities of in Earth's radiation belts and during solar storms. NOAA provides the data from these instruments to users around the world.

Goddard's POES Project developed the same instruments for the previous NOAA environmental satellites, NOAA-15 through NOAA-19, and for MetOp-A, which was launched in 2006. These instruments have provided reliable global environmental measurements of Earth continuously since 1998.

The AMSU–A1 and AMSU-A2 instruments are cross-track scanning total power radiometers that measure scene radiance (temperature) in the microwave spectrum. The data from these instruments is used in conjunction with the HIRS to calculate the global atmospheric temperature and humidity profiles from Earth's surface to the upper stratosphere. The data are used to provide precipitation and surface measurements including snow cover, sea ice concentration, and soil moisture. AMSU data is even used to characterize the internal structure of hurricanes. The AMSU-A1 and AMSU-A2 were designed and manufactured by Aerojet (now Northrop Grumman Electronics Systems) in Azusa, Calif.

The AVHRR is a six-channel imaging radiometer that detects energy in the visible, near infrared and infrared portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The instrument measures reflected solar (visible and near-IR) energy and radiated thermal energy from land, sea, clouds and the intervening atmosphere. Data from the AVHRR are used to produce numerous science products including imagery, cloud cover, snow and ice cover, sea surface temperatures, vegetation, smoke plumes, volcanic ash, aerosols and absorbed incoming solar radiation to Earth and outgoing radiation from Earth. It was developed and manufactured by ITT (now Exelis) in Ft. Wayne, Ind.

The HIRS was also developed and manufactured by ITT (now Exelis). The HIRS measures the atmosphere in 20 spectral regions and its data are used together with data from the AMSU-A1 and AMSU-A2 to produce global atmospheric temperature and humidity profiles. The HIRS data are also used to determine ocean surface temperatures, total atmospheric ozone levels, precipitable water, cloud height and coverage, surface radiance and outgoing long-wave radiation.

The Space Environment Monitor was developed and manufactured by Panametrics in Waltham, Mass., and is now maintained by ATC in Chelmsford, Mass. It measures the charged particle environment at satellite altitude including the intensities of energetic particles in Earth's radiation belts and the solar wind. The SEM contributes to space weather forecasting by providing warnings of solar wind occurrences that may impair long-range communications, cause damage to satellite circuits and solar panels, or cause changes in drag and magnetic torque on satellites.

"These crucial instruments will be used for weather forecasting and to help us all gain a better understanding of the Earth's systems," stated Gene Martin, POES Project instrument manager. "We have received outstanding support and dedication from our staff and the instrument contractors Northrop Grumman Electronics Systems, Exelis and Assurance Technology Corporation."

NOAA and EUMETSAT are partners in the European Initial Joint Polar System (IJPS) with the agreement to fly their partner's sensors on their own polar satellites and to exchange data from the POES and MetOp satellites. The MetOp satellites carry the sensors in the morning orbit, and NOAA's polar-orbiting environmental satellites, which are the U.S. contribution to the IJPS agreement, circle Earth in the afternoon orbit. NASA's POES project manages the development, testing and integration of the five U.S. instruments for the MetOp satellites under a reimbursable agreement with NOAA.

Goddard worked closely with NOAA and a sizeable international team throughout the multiyear effort to prepare for the MetOp-B launch. The Goddard instrument team delivered the instruments to Astrium in Friedrichshafen, Germany, and supported their integration into the MetOp-B Payload Module. Thermal vacuum testing of the Payload Module was conducted at ESA's Technical Center in Noordwijk, Holland. The Payload Module was integrated with the spacecraft bus in Toulouse, France. The spacecraft arrived in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, in March 2012 and was readied for launch.

Explore further: Metop-B weather satellite is ready for launch

More information: For more information about the Goddard-developed instruments on MetOp-B and the MetOp-B program, please visit:

Related Stories

MetOp to be launched in October

August 7, 2006

MetOp, the first in the new European series of operational meteorological satellites in polar orbit, is now scheduled for launch on 7 October 2006. The new date was established last week following various planning meetings ...

MetOp satellite shipped to Baikonur on 18 April

April 19, 2006

The first MetOp meteorological satellite arrived yesterday at its launch site, the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, following shipment from the industrial prime contractor, EADS Astrium in Toulouse, on board an Antonov-124 ...

New Environmental Satellite Successfully Launched

February 6, 2009

( -- A new environmental satellite that will improve weather forecasting and monitor environmental events around the world soared into space this morning after a picture-perfect launch from Vandenberg Air Force ...

Europe's next weather satellite gears up for launch

March 20, 2012

( -- Following the safe arrival of the MetOp-B weather satellite in Kazakhstan, the sophisticated craft is now being carefully assembled and tested before launch on 23 May. MetOp-B will provide essential data ...

NASA, NOAA set to launch new environmental satellite

May 4, 2005

NASA is set to launch the new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (POES), another critical link in the development of a global Earth-observation program. The ...

Recommended for you

Lowest-frequency accreting millisecond X-ray pulsar found

February 22, 2017

(—Astronomers have found the lowest-frequency accreting millisecond X-ray pulsar in the X-ray source known as IGR J17062−6143. By analyzing the data provided by the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) spacecraft, ...

Surprising dunes on comet Chury

February 22, 2017

Surprising images from the Rosetta spacecraft show the presence of dune-like patterns on the surface of comet Chury. Researchers at the Laboratoire de Physique et Mécanique des Milieux Hétérogènes (CNRS/ESPCI Paris/UPMC/Université ...

Neural networks promise sharpest ever images

February 22, 2017

Telescopes, the workhorse instruments of astronomy, are limited by the size of the mirror or lens they use. Using 'neural nets', a form of artificial intelligence, a group of Swiss researchers now have a way to push past ...

Fermi finds possible dark matter ties in Andromeda galaxy

February 21, 2017

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has found a signal at the center of the neighboring Andromeda galaxy that could indicate the presence of the mysterious stuff known as dark matter. The gamma-ray signal is similar to ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.