Another Soyuz success: Arianespace launches Metop-C for Europe’s meteorological operational system of polar-orbiting satellites
Weather forecasts around the globe will be more accurate thanks to Arianespace’s latest Soyuz success from the Spaceport in French Guiana – which launched the third and final spacecraft in EUMETSAT’s current-generation polar-orbiting weather satellite program.
Lifting off at 9:47:27 p.m. local time – which was the planned precise moment of launch – the Russian-built medium-lift vehicle deployed its Metop-C passenger into a Sun-synchronous “mid-morning” polar orbit during a one-hour flight sequence. Total payload lift performance was estimated at 4,212 kg.
Good visibility at the Spaceport enabled the facility’s tracking cameras – and the worldwide audience watching via Arianespace’s live video broadcast – to follow the Soyuz’ flight trajectory downrange for more than five minutes, which included the first-stage boosters’ separation.
Tonight’s success – designated Flight VS19 – was the 45th Soyuz mission operated by Arianespace and its Starsem European-Russian joint venture. Of this total, 19 originated from the Spaceport in French Guiana – which introduced its Soyuz operations in 2011 – while 26 were performed from Kazakhstan-based Baikonur Cosmodrome between 1999 and 2013.
Supporting a better life on Earth
Built by Airbus Defence and Space, Metop-C continues the European meteorological operational program of polar-orbiting spacecraft operated by the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). The first two satellites – Metop-A and Metop-B – were launched on Soyuz vehicles from Baikonour Cosmodrome in 2006 and 2012, respectively, by Starsem.
The Soyuz ST-B version of the Russian-built medium-lift workhorse launcher is shown ready for liftoff from the Spaceport on Arianespace Flight VS19.
“It’s a big year for Arianespace: with Metop-C, we are proud to have delivered once again for our European customers and for European institutions,” said Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël, speaking from a viewing event held at EUTELSAT’s Darmstadt, Germany headquarters. “And one more time, we have an illustration of how space delivers for the huge challenges of the 21st century – which are climate and environment.”
Israël acknowledged those who contributed to this latest Arianespace success, including the Russian federal space agency, Roscosmos, and the country’s industrial partners; along with the European support companies and the French CNES space agency.
“Let me also pay tribute to my Arianespace colleagues,” he added. “We have a wonderful team of people in Arianespace who are inspired by what they’re doing. To be honest, I think that one of the most beautiful jobs on Earth is to go to space!”
Joining Stéphane Israël in Darmstadt was EUMETSAT Director General Alain Ratier, who declared his agency is a “happy Arianespace customer” following this latest Metop satellite launch success, while underscoring the importance of Metop-C in the continuity of EUMETSAT’s weather forecasting services.
Looking forward to continued cooperation
Metop spacecraft are essential for numerical weather prediction from 12 hours to 10 days in advance, and carry state-of-the-art instruments to measure a wide range of variables – such as temperature and humidity, wind speed and direction over oceans, ozone and other atmospheric gases.
The still-operational Metop-A and Metop-B satellites make the largest single contribution to reducing errors in weather forecasts one day in advance, with Metop-C expected to enhance this performance upon its own service entry. Following the deployment by Soyuz, Metop-C is to undergo approximately six weeks of commissioning, during which the proper operation of the spacecraft and its instrumentation will be verified.
After tonight’s success, Arianespace has four more EUMETSAT spacecraft in its backlog for future launches: MTG-I1 and MTG-S1, the European organization’s next generation of geostationary satellites; along with the polar-orbiting MetopSG-A1 and MetopSG-B1, which are to succeed Metop-A, -B and -C in delivering meteorological data.
Metop-C is the 122nd satellite built by Airbus Defence and Space to be orbited on an Arianespace mission, with 21 more Airbus-produced spacecraft in the company’s order book for future launches.
A busy end-of-year for Arianespace
Flight VS19 was Arianespace’s second Soyuz mission in 2018, and the eighth this year using a member of the company’s three-member launcher family – which also includes the heavy-lift Ariane 5 and lightweight Vega.
In his concluding comments from Darmstadt, Arianespace’s Stéphane Israël highlighted the company’s impressive tempo at the Spaceport in French Guiana, as three more launches are planned before year-end. These will be composed of a Vega mission on November 20 to deliver an Earth observation satellite, with an Ariane 5 liftoff and a Soyuz flight to follow during the subsequent weeks.
“This means that since October, we will have delivered five launches in approximately two months – which is quite impressive,” he stated.
On the 19th Soyuz mission performed from the Spaceport, the Flight VS19 launcher ascends with its Metop-C satellite payload on a mission to polar Sun-synchronous orbit.