Europe’s first polar orbiting meteorological satellite successfully de-orbits

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The first European meteorological satellite in polar orbit, Metop-A, has been successfully de-orbited by the European Meteorological Satellite Agency, EUMETSAT, with the support of Airbus.

Starting immediately, the satellite will gradually descend into lower orbits until it disintegrates on re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, a process expected to be completed within the next 25 years, in accordance with international standards for reduction of space debris.

The process of removing the satellite from its orbit began on November 15, when the satellite began to be lowered so that its closest point of orbit to Earth fell from 817 km to about 530 km. During the desorbiting process, an original experiment was conducted where the satellite performed a maneuver in which it flipped upside down so that instruments that normally scan Earth instead scan deep space.

The data acquired during this maneuver will lead to an improved calibration of the monitored environment, providing a new basis for data processing that can be applied retrospectively to any Metop data already received, as well as new data of the duration. life of the other two satellites in the EUMETSAT Polar System, Metop-B and Metop-C, is expected to operate through 2027 and the 2030s, respectively, which will increase the accuracy and consistency of long-term climate data records.

Metop-A is known to be the first satellite subject to an agreement between the United States and Europe involving American instruments, supplied by the NOAA, in flight on a European satellite, operated by EUMETSAT.

The data collected from Metop-A has been fundamental to improvements in weather forecasting accuracy throughout its 15-year lifetime, with annual socioeconomic value measured in the billions of euros,” said Andrew Monham, Spacecraft Operations Manager. “Equally important is the immeasurable contribution it has made to climate monitoring, atmospheric composition knowledge, and other environmental missions. This has allowed Metop-A, which has served the environment on Earth for so many years, to now do its part for the space environment by exiting the crowded operational orbits that society relies on for its everyday needs, which in turn reduces the overall collision risk for every nation’s satellites."
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