Soyuz success from Baikonur Cosmodrome: the Metop-B weather satellite is in orbit
September 17, 2012 – Soyuz Flight ST25
Europe’s newest meteorological satellite, Metop-B, was launched today from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan by the Starsem affiliate of Arianespace.
Lofted by a Soyuz launcher, this spacecraft is the second in a series of polar-orbiting spacecraft in the Meteorological Operational satellite program (Metop) – joining Metop-A, launched by Starsem aboard another Soyuz from Baikonur Cosmodrome in October 2006.
These satellites are Europe’s first operational meteorological platforms in polar orbit, and they constitute the space segment of the EUMETSAT (European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites) polar system. This system delivers data for numerical weather prediction – the basis of modern weather forecasting – along with climate and environmental monitoring.
The Metop spacecraft are procured on behalf of EUMETSAT by the European Space Agency from an Astrium-led European industrial consortium, and they include instruments delivered by the French CNES space agency, as well as the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Today’s on-time liftoff occurred at 10:28 p.m. local time from Baikonur Cosmodrome’s Launch Pad #6. During the mission, Soyuz’ re-ignitable Fregat upper stage performed two propulsive burns separated by a coast phase of approximately 45 minutes, followed by Metop-B’s release into a Sun-synchronous orbit.
The mission was designated ST25 in Arianespace’s numbering sequence, signifying the 25th flight performed by the Starsem affiliate since beginning its operations in 1999. It utilized a Soyuz 2-1a version equipped with the ST-type fairing sized at an external diameter of 4.1 meters and a length of 11.4 meters.
Arianespace and Starsem have established a track record of success during missions with EUMETSAT weather spacecraft, including the 2006 Starsem launch of Metop-A. Most recently, Arianespace orbited the no. 3 spacecraft in Europe’s Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) series – Meteosat-10 – on an Ariane 5 flight in July 2012. This followed launches of the initial two second-generation MSG spacecraft: Meteosat-8 and Meteosat-9, performed in August 2002 and December 2005, respectively. Since 1981, Arianespace has orbited a total of nine Meteosat-series weather satellites.
At Baikonur Cosmodrome, Jean-Yves Le Gall – the Chairman & CEO of Starsem and Arianespace – congratulated all involved with the mission, and underscored the successful collaboration with the European meteorological satellite organization.
“I would like to express my sincere appreciation to EUMETSAT for its confidence and support,” said Le Gall. “Once again, together, we have demonstrated that Soyuz is an extremely valuable launch vehicle, and definitely is the workhorse of the mid-sized European institutional programs.”
Also speaking from the launch site in Kazakhstan, Ernst Koenemann, Director of Program Development of EUMETSAT, confirmed Metop-B’s successful deployment from the Soyuz launcher’s Fregat upper stage – which was followed by confirmation of the satellite’s solar array deployment.
He said it was “a very impressive launch on a nice summer evening,” providing an excellent view of Soyuz well into its northern trajectory. “With the launch of MSG-3 in the beginning of July, and now the first successful steps with Metop-B, we have two important assets in orbit to guarantee to our member states the continuation of our service for at least the next 6-7 years – which is a real success,” Koenemann added.