The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a 32 million euro contract with OHB Sweden for the construction of a satellite prototype for the Arctic Weather Satellite mission. This development comes as a result of the increased need for frequent satellite data for faster updates of weather forecasts in the Arctic. This prototype is an indication of a potential constellation of satellites that would provide an almost constant flow of temperature and humidity data from every location on Earth. This would allow, for the first time, very short-term weather forecasts, also known as “nowcasting”, in the Arctic. Meteorologists will also use the mission to improve weather forecasts around the world.
Currently, European geostationary satellites Meteosat, positioned 36,000 km above the equator, send back images every 15 minutes across the Earth and every five minutes over Europe. Since they do not have visibility at higher latitudes, they cannot be used for weather forecasting in the Arctic. While MetOp satellites send data back over the poles as they circle the Earth from pole to pole in a lower orbit, it takes up to 24 hours to achieve global coverage. By providing global measurements of atmospheric temperature and humidity with frequent revisit times, the polar orbiting arctic weather satellite mission will complement MetOp and its US counterpart NOAA Joint Polar Satellite System. This will improve weather forecasting especially in the Arctic.
“The Arctic Weather Satellite Development Contract demonstrates ESA’s continued commitment to building new state-of-the-art weather satellite systems, while showing what can be achieved with a cost-effective New Space approach. “Toni Tolker-Nielsen, said acting director of ESA Earth observation programs.