After three days of intensive testing by the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), EUMETSAT has taken over control of its newest polar-orbiting meteorological satellite, Metop-C, and started flight operations of a constellation of three Metop satellites.
ESOC started the Metop-C launch and early operations phase (LEOP) on 7 November, immediately after the spacecraft separated from the launcher’s upper stage, and concluded it on 10 November.
The purpose of the LEOP was to ensure that the desired orbit was achieved, that the solar array and all antennas of the satellite were deployed and that all on-board systems required to support the mission were activated, properly configured and working correctly.
"Teams at ESA’s European Space Operation Centre in Darmstadt checked all of Metop-C’s systems, the power, temperature, software and telecommunication links," said Paolo Ferri, Head of Mission Operations.
"Our teams were happy to hand over to EUMETSAT a fully configured and healthy Metop-C after performing the initial, critical operations as part of the long lasting cooperation between the two agencies in the field of meteorological and Earth observation missions."
EUMETSAT Director of Operations and Services to Users Livio Mastroddi said, "This successful handover means that we now perform flight operations of a constellation of three Metop satellites, including Metop-C."
EUMETSAT Director of Programme Preparation and Development Cristian Bank said, "Over the next six weeks, we will perform in-orbit commissioning of the Metop-C satellite in partnership with ESA, CNES and NOAA, switching all 13 instruments and checking their performance and the quality of output data. After that, over three months, our scientists will calibrate and validate the products we extract from the data."
Metop-C is expected to become fully operational in early spring 2019, as the third and primary satellite of the EUMETSAT Polar System (EPS).
"With Metop-A and Metop-B, our EPS system is already the source of observations that has the highest positive impact on the accuracy of weather forecasts up to 10 days ahead. Studies show that this impact has socio-economic benefits of ¤5 billion per year to Europe, and this will certainly increase with a third satellite," EUMETSAT Director-General Alain Ratier said.
"Metop-C will also secure the transition to the EPS-Second Generation system we are developing in cooperation with ESA," he said. "We plan to launch the first Metop-Second Generation satellite at the end of 2022."